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Progression, regression – at least it’s developing?

28 Nov

We wanted to draw attention to a couple of recent events in the struggle for equality. Good news and bad news, but either way it’s good to highlight the wins when they come to give context to any steps back that may happen in other areas. Just keeping on walking.

The beginning of the month saw the European Court of Justice issue a preliminary ruling on an EU Directive relating to minimum standards for the qualification and status of third-country nationals or Stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection. For those unfamiliar with this judicial process, national courts can refer questions of interpretation of EU law that come up in cases brought before them to the ECJ for clarification on the legal rule. The ECJ issues its judgement, which is binding, and then the national courts decide the case before them based on that interpretation. (That’s a very simplified version of the process…) So the ECJ was asked by the courts in the Netherlands a series of questions, including whether foreign nationals with a homosexual orientation form a particular social group for the purposes of the EU Directive in question and as such entitled to protection. The ECJ ruled they did. The Court held “it is common ground that a person’s sexual orientation is a characteristic so fundamental to his identity that he should not be forced to renounce it”. The existence of criminal laws in the countries were the claimants where nationals specifically targeting homosexuals further supported the finding that those persons must be regarded as forming part of a particular social group. The ECJ ruling is obviously not the final step in the process, but as the ECJ’s ruling is binding on all other EU Member States, it could have significant impact on the implementation of these standards across the EU.

At the end of the month, there’s been an important decision on discrimination based on sexual orientation in the UK. For all the news that the UK seems to be winding back to the 17th century in many respects, but particularly in relation to the protection of human rights protection, yesterday’s judgement by the Supreme Court came as somewhat of a relief to those still holding on to modern principles. A couple who ran a small private hotel refused to provide a homosexual couple a double bedroom. The hoteliers hold strong religious beliefs and have a policy that they only provide double bedrooms to “heterosexual married couples”. By an oversight, the guests were not informed of the policy. The majority held that the policy was direct discrimination and, even if it was indirect discrimination, was not justified. It is still within living memory that such acts would not be considered to be discrimination, so quite a fantastic progression in many respects. (Press release here, for those with scarce time.)

Final thing to draw to your attention – the Swedish riksdag (parliament) today signed into law legislation that would prohibit advertising of infant formula and require packets to be labelled indicating that breastfeeding has benefits (among other things). Not all political parties supported the legislation but the reasoning behind it is that it transposes (or incorporates into Swedish law) an EU Directive (2006/141/EC), which does set out these requirements and which EU Member States are therefore bound to incorporate into their domestic legal systems. Whilst this all clearly stems from very important concerns relating to the health interests of children, it does make you wonder whether such a heavy emphasis neglects the pressures faced by women in early motherhood and their genuine right to choose for themselves what’s best for their bodies and their child, rather than have it dictated to them by a government.  Legislating on biological “truths” as some of this has been presented, similar to legislation on historical “truths”, always feels a little uncomfortable. The general conclusion seems to be an overall feeling of discomfort.

Still, a couple of steps forward. Let’s hope we all can keep on walking.

Mums, Food, Body Image

4 Aug

So, I just read this Jezebel piece on whether or not parents should force their kids to finish the food on their plates or whether that might push them into an eating disorder. Don’t ask me why I read it, I don’t even have kids I could force feed, it is called P.R.O.C.R.A.S.T.I.N.A.T.I.O.N.

Anyway, comments to the article involved all sort of discussions of fucked up relationships with food that people were taught when they were little, either directly, by being told to eat more or less (usually less, when it comes to girls) or indirectly, by watching how their parents behaved around food, how their parents talked about the food they were eating or avoiding and how parents talked about their own bodies. The thoughts that were voiced tie in nicely with this post that was passed around the internet last month, in which a woman describes how her mum’s own distorted body image influenced her when growing up.

I see a lot of people around me, friends, family members, colleagues, making food into a big deal. I mean, it is a big deal. It is necessary and, with the exception of anything involving bread crumbs, potentially delicious. But many women I know (and a few guys) seem to feel the need to constantly comment on the food they and others are eating (or not). There is the constant need of justification of why specific food is eaten now (‘Yeah, I know I shouldn’t’; ‘Ahh, it is delicious, but I will have to not eat xyz for the next week now’; ‘Yeah, I know it is a sin but I worked out this morning’) or a constant commentary on other people’s eating behavior (very rarely I hear ‘Oh, you really are hungry today’, more often it is wrapped as a compliment which, simultaneously self-reprimands its originator: ‘Oh, yes, have a piece of cake, YOU can afford it’ [disclosure: I have an average body weight for my height, I haven’t been on scales for the last 14 years, many of my friends are more slender than I am] ).

Thing is: I don’t mind such talk much. I don’t say these sorts of things about my own eating habits (I think) and pretty definitely not about other’s eating habits (as, in my opinion, they are a. none of my business and b. not overly exciting conversation topics). Sure, when I was a teenager, I had a phase were I was dieting and weighing myself every morning, letting the number decide the mood for the rest of the day and a short phase of not being happy in my body. It is a sad fact that I don’t know anyone who didn’t have such a phase. And sure, there are days when I like the way I look less and short intervals of ahhhhhhhh this and that is too thick, too broad, too whatever. But these are very short phases and generally, I am happy with the way I look and eat what I want and don’t think about it much.

I was wondering why my body image and my relationship towards food are so relatively trouble-free. Now, this is obviously a complex thing and there are many different factors in it. As I said, I would say my body type is somewhat average and while it is another sad fact of life that, as a woman, you will never escape public scrutiny and commentary on the way you look, I suppose that when you are exceptionally thin or obese, even more people feel entitled to comment on your body. So that is one thing. And I can think of others which I am not discussing here. But one thing I am sure was a massive influence in this was my mum. I can honestly not remember her ever commenting on my body in a negative way nor on her own body (it was also not like she was commenting a lot about my body in a positive way. It was just: a body. It was there. Therefore it was good. Move on). I have never experienced her dieting. When I was little, it was a family joke that my mum could eat a whole box of praline when she was in the mood for it, something that she wouldn’t deny and, when any of us wanted to make her happy, boxes of chocolate were always safe and would be welcomed. Generally, she taught us that one should eat healthy, that one cannot eat boxes of chocolate every day because that brings you tooth ache. It is possible that she also mentioned that too much sugar and fat might make you unhealthily overweight but if she mentioned it in that context at all, it apparently wasn’t in any obsessive or hysteric way, proven by the fact that I do not even remember her saying this at all.

Photo courtesy of Daniela Ramos Arias

Photo courtesy of Daniela Ramos Arias

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have my fair share of fat phobia in my family. My dad and my aunt (his sister) are the ones in our family who are more obsessed with dieting, doing sports to lose weight, making the occasional less than charming comment about my changing teenage body. But even though I guess most people, definitely most women, hear these sorts of comments during their youth, I dare to say it didn’t influence me much beyond my teenage years. My mum being so decidedly non-dramatic, unapologetic and matter-of-factly about her body and about the food that went into it must have been one of the greatest measures of upbringing, to instill self-worth which is somewhat independent of what you see in the mirror, to see the consumption of food or the lack thereof not as a measure failure or success but rather as both a necessity and an enjoyable thing without much fuzz. All this must have seeped into the corners of my own me-ness somehow. Thinking about it, being so uncomplicated about these issues is such an immensely big deal for which I am tremendously grateful. It is one of the things that I, should I have kids of my own, will definitely try to pass on.

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.

A Tale of Parliamentary Burlesque Act.II- EThics call home

27 Mar

Image

The picture above is part of a major reaction from Brazilian society against the election of a racist, homophobe and misogynist as President of the Federal Congress’ Human Rights Commission. It says: “I’m not from this Planet, but if I was, Marcos Feliciano would not represent me”.

Indeed, the Brazilian congress is famous for its detachment from society (keep reading this blog and you’ll never be bored by it), so much so that most Brazilians prefer not to talk or discuss about the National Congress. The election of Marcos Feliciano to preside the HRC, however, was not seen as yet another practical joke made by the congress on us. It hurt deeper.

His election was held on March 7th. On March 9th, hundreds of people were protesting in São Paulo.

Image

Image

FEMEN was there too! 🙂

Social media response was also fast, noisy and went right on spot: Feliciano Não me Representa became an intergalactic anthem, as seen above. (Don’t miss looking at the thousand pictures. Some are quite creative.) Artists expressed their revolt too. From the regularly opinionated, like Caetano Veloso, who gathered friends and activists in the Brazilian Press Association, to the most apolitical, like Xuxa, who called him a monster on twitter. A few Federal Congresspersons create a Parallel Front of Human Rights, as they refused to participate in a Human Rights Commission presided by Marcos Feliciano.

Protesters gathered at the HRC venue, making it impossible to hold any session. They yelled “Feliciano, Facista”and outvoice him. Until now, no session has been properly held by the HRC since Marcos Feliciano’s election.

But It is not that the members who elected Marcos Feliciano heard the protesters outcry passively. Another famously facist Federal Congressperson, Jair Bolsonaro, went on to confront the protesters, saying unpublishable things and showing this sign:

Image

The message above, showed inside CDH’s venue, expresses Jair Bolsonaro’s opinion on what the protesters do in their daily lives. It is a slang that I can only translate as “burn the donut everyday”. If you’re too classy, you’ll never get the meaning, sorry.

Despite the resistance, protests became so widespread that last thursday the president of the Federal Congress, acknowledging that the Congress’ popular image was peaking a historical low, urged the PSC to appoint another president to the HRC. This tuesday, however, the PSC decided to maintain Feliciano at the HRC presidency. And there is not much that the National Congress’ President can do about it, as he does not have the power to overthrow the Commission’s election.

If politicians do not come to their minimal sense, the only hope is a technicality that is pending judgement by the Supreme Court, for the session that elected Marcos Feliciano was a closed one and it should not have been an open session. 

So, ET, could you keep calling please?

A Tale of Parliamentary Burlesque. Act.I- Meet Marcos Feliciano

26 Mar

Marcos Feliciano is the Presidential Pastor of an evangelical church called Assembléia de Deus – Catedral do Avivamento. He is also a federal congressman of PSC – the Social Christian Party. Furthermore, he was blessed by God with unbeatable beauty and style.

Image
Don’t you girls (and naughty boys) even salivate, for he is a married man.

The political views of Marcos Feliciano are also sound and clear. He is an objective, prosperous man, who is not afraid to speak his mind. About same sex marriage he has said that it brings hate, crime and rejection. About black persons, he has said that africans are the descendents of a cursed member of Noah’s family, this being the explanation for the paganism, occultism, misery and diseases like ebola in Africa. About women’s rights, he has said that when you encourage women to have the same rights as men, they want to work and hence their maternal side is nullified.

In his political life, Marcos Feliciano faces many challenges: currently, he is the defendant in two cases pending before the Brazilian Supreme Court: one for inciting discrimination and prejudice and another for embezzlement. These little obstacles, however, are not strong enough to hold him down and he has recently been elected president of the Brazilian Federal Congress´ Human Rights Commission (CDH).

Traditionally, the Human Rights Commission has been presided over by the Labour Party – PT. This time, however, the Labour Party did not consider it a priority. It preferred to preside over other commissions. Therefore, as a result of a very complex parliamentary game (God’s will, for certain), the presidency of the Human Rights Commission was to be held by a member of the PSC.

The fact alone that the HDC was going to presided by the PSC caused outrage among the pagans, who knew that the HDC was no longer going to be ruled by the gay-women-and-black-alliance. Indeed, at the election day, several congresspersons left the commission’s venue, saying they were protesting. That very blessed day, in a closed session, Marcos Feliciano was democratically elected by 11 votes and 1 abstention. No vote against!

If you want to know more about Marcos Feliciano and his church, visit http://www.catedraldoavivamento.com.br/site/  The website is in portuguese, but you can certainly use google translator to find out more about him. Also, if you have a church already (I mean, if you OWN a church) you can affiliate it to Catedral do Avivamento. Just fill this form: http://form.jotformpro.com/form/22714443500948

Last, but not least, if you want to contribute financially to his church, It accepts that you send them your credit card, but, as Pastor Marcos Feliciano famously said (the recording is all over youtube): “It is the last time that I speak: Samuel de Souza gave his credit card, but didn’t gave his password. That’s not worth. When he ask for God’s miracle, God will not give it to him and he will say that God is bad.”

Oh, Glory. Praise the Lord!


To be continued.

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