Mittwoch, 27. Juli 2011

The magic C-word

Sorry to dissapoint you, it's not clitoris. In this post anyway.
Context. You know "within the text".
I really have no idea what's the problem with the simple idea that for a lot of things it's not a simple matter of good or bad, right or wrong, but of when, where, with whom and how.
I always thought this was something you learnt early in life: you used a different language when talking to your grandma compared to what languaged you used when talking to your mates. There's nothing bad about pooping, yet you don't do it of the sidewalk. Easy, isn't it?
And the there are the rules of communication. The simple recognition that in a given conversation about topic X, regardless of what X actually is, jumping in shouting "but what about Y"* makes you an asshole.
To make it easier for those who have problems with that idea:
In a conversation about starvation in Africa**, complaining about your lack of Parmesan cheese makes you an asshole because you compare your tiny woes with a real serious problem. That's easy.
Trickier: In a conversation about Parmesan cheese, jumping in telling people that this is trivial and they should really discuss starvation in Africa makes you an asshole, too. But aren't starving children still more important than cheese? Of course they are, but bringing them up in this context shows that the person actually gives a fuck about them. What such a person really wants is to tell people what to do, trying to shame them because they obviously ignore such great woes in the world. Such a person wants to get their halo glowing with a holier than thou attitude. That's what makes such a person an asshole.

*Quite often the formula Y=me is true.
**BTW, you can help, these are cool people who don't spend money on bibles

Montag, 25. Juli 2011

To Norway....and the world

Now it's been three days since the horrible massacre in Norway. Police are correcting the death numbers, fortunately downwards. The shock that numbed out most other feelings vanes and all over the world the filths spews forth.
A Finish Newspaper blames the massacre on women not having enough sex with the bastard (if your Finish is as good as mine, try this link), while the most disgusting Glenn Beck insults the victims by comparing them to the Hitler Youth.

How can they?
How dare they?
Have they been raised under a wet stone and only recently came out?

I'm angry. I'm angry as hell. I'm angry at all those people who let the fascists, the racists, the xenophobes join their ranks as concerned citizens against the "islamification", who themselves used every cheap trick in the book to make immigrants the scapegoats again, who proclaimed the end and the death of the western world if we don't start doing something against muslims.

We have seen once again who wants to kill freedom, everything that's good, that makes life worth living. The same people who always wanted to do this since the 1930's.

I'm sad. I hold my kids as if there was no tomorrow. Because there are those people in Norway for whom there is no tomorrow in which they can hold their children.

I'm amazed at the Norwegians, who don't answer this horrible act of terrorism with cries for less freedom, but with a firm dedication to keep an open society, to uphold the values of those killed.
Because you can't end terrorism with police force or armies. That means you let them win.

Again, to Norway. I mourn with you, I cry with you.

Dienstag, 19. Juli 2011

All the way to Saudi Arabia

Well, nobody says that we're close to Saudi Arabia. It's pretty far away, sure. You'd take a plane to go there. And the differences are vast. And look at how bad women have it there. Really bad. No-one in their right mind would compare the situation with the one here.
But truth is, you can walk there. Well, if you are in continental Europe.
Each steps takes you a little closer to Saudi Arabia. Surely, you don't notice a difference going from Germany to Austria. But you go further. Things are still pretty good in Hungary. Maybe the gender roles are a bit more traditional, a bit more open sexism. Still, not that much to worry about.
Macho culture in Romania and Bulgaria might make you worry a bit. Istanbul in Turkey shows more headscarves already and the more you move away from the capital, the more they become. Finally you have to cross Syria with all its troubles. You're happy that your trip through Iraq is short. And you reach Saudi Arabia. With its open misogyny. With its laws that prohibit women to drive. With its burqas.
Your journey started at home, where things are good, but each tiny step brought you one step closer to Saudi Arabia.
Now, we can't put more distance between ourselves and Saudi Arabia. And it would be really stupid to believe that there was simply a continuum of sexism from Germany or France over Bulgaria to Saudi Arabia.
Sorry if you felt your country missrepresented, it was for the sake of illustration only. But I think it makes a point: Things aren't black and white, things aren't easy.
We can't move physical countries, but we also can't prevent sexism and misogyny increasing by just noting our difference from and to Saudi Arabia. But as a culture, as a society, we can move away. We can refuse to make the very first small step. By not letting a sexist remark slide. By not belittling women, their experiences and concerns. By not making their lives worse.

Donnerstag, 14. Juli 2011

Something completely different: A short story

Like about everybody who ever got a nice remark by their primary school teacher on their creative writing, the idea of writing a book myself has always fascinated me.
Well, with age there came experience and probably I don't have it in me to write a novel, but I humour myself not to suck too bad at short stories.
So, if you're interested in a bit of nice, no depth fantasy, here you go.

I was lost. I know what you're going to tell me. That wouldn't be just a disgrace, but also quite impossible, since after all I'm a Bayona*, born with the gift to find my way wherever in  Z'anad I'd be. But that's the point, I wasn't in Z'anad anymore. As a faithful Runner, I'd been sent to the Free City by the Prodnik to deliver an important treaty to their Prodnik.
I had acomplished my duties and so nobody would even notice I was missing. Runners lead a lonly life. Some of them have a partner in all the major cities, or at least somebody who acts like on for a few days for pay. Others, like me want to retire some day with the savings from their hard work and start anew. This should have been my last mission, paid for in advance. The Prodnik wouldn't wonder if he never heard of me again and neither would anybody else in Z'anad.

So there I was standing in the middle of the Wilderlands and couldn't even tell anymore where I'd come from. You laugh? I'm a Bayona, I never needed orientate like ordinary people. Stars are pretty and yes, the sun changes its position during the day and yes, there's more moss on one side of the tree than on the other. What did I care? You could drop me anywhere at night  with my eyes covered, turn me ten times around and I could still tell you wher Zasul is. As long as I myself am in Z'anad. So I went on walking. I would arrive somewhere or die of thirst in the meantime.

By the end of the second day I was lucky, I heard a dog bark in the distance, a real dog, not a mean coyote, and where there are  dogs there are people. I licked over my cracked lips with my dry tongue once more and paced up. Soon I could make out the first huts in the flimering twilight of the steppe. Somebody aproached me who in spite of the warmth was wearing a heavy cloak with a hood. When he got closer I saw it was a man, not very tall but moving gracefully and smoothly. His hair and beard were of a strange white, tinted with grey, like an old man's, but his face didn't show any signs of old age and his eyes shone with a peculiar power.
His eyes, yes they radiated with a blue I'd never seen before, not even with the Icepeople you see from time to time in Zasul. He greeted me in the guttural dialect of the Wilderlands that sounded almost like growling in my ears:
"Be welcomed, stranger. Seldomly do wanderers visit our village"
I answered his greetings and asked for food and shelter for the night. He nodded and let me to the village. It wasn't big, maybe 50 houses built around a small court with a well. The man must have seen my glance, moving fast he hauled up a bucked full od water and passed me a wooden scope to drink.
I've drunk the melting water from the mountainsides of Paklot and the sweet wine of the Bar Valley, but never in my life did anything taste as delicious as this stale water from a well in the Wilderlands.

When my thirst was quenched my host led me to one of the houses. It was similarly built to those I'd seen in the Karsteppe, but it seemed to lack stables. Never mind, I was too tired to wonder about that, too tired for anything. I almost fell down on the bedding I was offered and slept like a young kitten.
The next morning I took farewell from my host. Now I noticed that I had hardly seen any other villagers, especially no children playing in the court like in any other village. When I asked my host he answered something alon g the lines of digging out root and suddenly wanted to get rid of me quickly. They gave me a kind of sausage, made from dried sweet tree-juice and a big bag of water. He explained me the way to the next town from where I should not have any problems to return to Z'anad and I was glad for the thought of having the soil of Z'anad under my soles again and especially of having the feeling to know where I was in my head again.

So I thanked my host for everything and set off towards the town. Three days they had said. Only three days. Three days are nothing for a Runner like me.
They don't call them the Wilderlands for nothing. Their stepps host more than just thirst and it came when dusk arrived. Probably it had followed me for a while already. Its first attack pushed me over and made me crashing against some rocks. Its own momentum had carried it away from me, but when it landed on its feet some steps away from me, it immediately turned around to me again. Back in Z'anad, the brasuli belong to the mythical monsters grandmothers use to intimidate little children. Here in the Wilderlands they are real. Whatever your grandmother told you, she didn't exaggerate. Its teeth were as pointed as the palisades of a fortified village and its claws shone like the miners' pickaxes. And it wasn't alone. Three smaller creatures appeared on the scene when it prepared to jump. I could hear its growling and hissing as pushed its hindlegs into the ground, simultaneously with the others.
Instinctively I shielded my face with my arm. I heard the teeth cut into the flesh, I felt the warm blood dripping on my legs, but it wasn't mine. With a dumb thud, the brasul fell to the ground. Tentatively I lowered my arm and looked into those radiant blue eyes. The hood had slipped back over his head and revealed two pointy, hairy ears that stood out over his white grey hair. His two companions weren't less outlandishThe man had huge pointy horns and her beak was dripping with the blood of the brasul.
I don't know what stories your grandma used to tell you, but in the tales on mine, the Animal-Men were even worse than the brasuli. With a weak smile I accepted my fate.

That was more than 6 years ago. I have learnt to fine my way in the steppe, to interprete the wind, to read the stars. Kamik, my husband and partner taught me how to do it. He didn't need to teach our children. As long as they are in the Wilderlands, they'll never lose their way home, but may some day they may show it to somebody meandering like I did.

*Some remarks on translation and pronounciation.
This was originally written in German, which has clearly distinctive male/female forms, so the sex of the narrator is revealed within the first sentences. It was interesting for me to see whether it would change my own perception of the protagonist if that was probably not the case.
The story features names and terms from a fictional world.
Writing this it acquired a kind of Russian flavour (or whatever counts as Russian in Germany). So the pronounciation of those names is mostly short and "hard"
Z'anad: Ts' -u-'nud. Both Us are pronounced short like in but or bus
Bayona: Bu'yonu. A is a signifier for the female form.  Again, U like but, yo like yoghurt
Prodnik: think sputnik, only with O like some.
Brasul/Brasuli: Brrrusool. I indicates plural. The r is a guttoral rolled r. Think of Russian spies in James Bond movies. Oo like in spool.

What would you tell your daughter?

In the recent shitstorm that came to be known as "Elevatorgate" (I surely don't need to put links here, you all know where to go), a lot of the arguments mostly men made went along the line of "for all we know he was perfectly benevolent. He accepted no as an answer. It's sexist to assume that just because he was a guy he wanted to rape her".
Well, apart from the fact that neither of us can know what would have happened in the room had Rebecca Watson accepted his proposition, I think you're getting this the wrong way.
You sympathise with the Elevator Guy (and after being dragged all over the internet I sure do, too), you identify with him.
After all you're a good guy. You'd never hurt a woman, you'd never drug her drink, you'd always accept her no. Therefore a woman would be perfectly safe with you in an elevator at 4 am, in a dark alley, in a hotel room.
Therefore you think it's totally ok for you to make such a proposition.
Therefore you're offended at the suggestion that she might think you to be anything else than a great good guy after you worked hard on becoming one. It's an allegation you take serious. I understand you, believe me I do*.
The problem is: we don't know you. We don't know all those wonderful things about you. We don't know that we'd be perfectly safe with you.
So let's try and shift the perspective a little.
Let's say the woman isn't Rebecca Watson or any other woman you might find interesting and want to get to know better. Let's say the woman is your 18 year old daughter who comes to you for advice.
The guy in question isn't you for whom you can vouchsafe, but a stranger of whom you have no more information than we do about EG.
Now, would you tell your daughter to accept the proposition or would you tell her to stay away because accepting might bring her into danger?
If your reaction would be the latter, you have reached the exact same conclusion you were offended by before.
If you wouldn't want your daughter to accept a proposition from a man she has no more information about than a woman has about you, don't make it.

*I'm German. I'm an anti-fascist, I come from a family who suffered greatly under Hitler. I work hard to fight racists and (neo-)fascists. Still, usually when being abroad, some people will treat me with caution, with a certain amount of dislike by default for my nationality. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it offends. But I understand why they do so. And I try to make them see that I really am one of the nice Germans.

Mittwoch, 13. Juli 2011

A little story about "No"

In the recent debate also known as "Elevatorgate", a lot of the comments stated that "He propositioned, she said no, nothing happened, what's the deal".
The deal is, among a million other things, the problem of saying "no" without fear.
Whenever some guy makes the joke that "women really don't mean no, we all know that", my stomach cringes. It carries a threat. The threat that if you say no, the man will just ignore it because he knows what you want so much better than you yourself.
Saying no without fear isn't always easy.
About 2 years ago, just when I wanted to take a much needed nap (the lack of sleep certainly added to my level of annoyance), my phone rang. A man was asking for a woman called XY. I told him that he'd dialed the wrong number, he apologized and we both hung up.
I thought it would be the end of it, but alas, it wasn't.
2 minutes later he called again. Really no XY living there? We checked the phone number to see whether he got the right one and for sure, he had my phone number.
Short of it: the guy was an idiot. He called 3 more times even though he knew this wasn't her phone number. They'd met in a sauna, chatted. He asked her her phone number and she made one up. Unfortunately, it was mine.
That afternoon, I was really mad at both of them.
The more time passed, the more my perspective on the whole issue changed. I'm still annoyed at her, because even though unknowingly, she threw me underneath the bus by giving my number to the guy who now had my name, number and therefore my adress.
But I also feel for her, because she obviously was made very uncomfortable by this guy and didn't dare to tell him no when he asked for her number.
At that moment she made the decission that getting away from him safely had top priority. She made the decission that just saying no was not safe.
So, if you're response is "she said no, nothing happened", go back two steps, go back to the moment in which my unknown woman in the sauna felt unsafe to say no.
Wanting to say no should not make you think about whether it was safe to do so. The fact that a man will accept it without making a fuzz doesn't take away doesn't take away the prior moment when she had to worry about this.

Update for personal referrence: Today, Jan 20th 2012, at about 10 to 3, the same guy called me again, trying the exact same thing again. Somebody looks creepy right now.