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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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Feminism/Gender

Games for girls

I was chatting to someone from the cuadrilla who was a geek. I remember actually not hating the conversation, which was nice. I said “Ah, you lent us that car game. Could you tell me what are the tricks to do better at it?”

“Ah” he said. “Well, the thing is, it’s not meant for girls. You should play one of the gardening ones instead.”

I started laughing hysterically, thinking about what a great joke it was. He continued.

“No, when I’m tired, I play this great gardening game. You should play that one instead.”

His traditional sexism gave me a firm pat on the cheek. I, between laughing, explained to him how the division of labour in our society leads to massive inequalities in men and women and how I didn’t believe there were toys for boys or for girls.

Eventually, in a small voice, he mentioned that the main important strategies of winning the game were memorising the maps and memorising where the speed boosts were.

That wasn’t so hard now was it?

How has a masters in Feminism changed my ESL teaching?

Completing a masters in Feminism and Gender, in my second language, while working part time, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My family and friends were mostly against it. “It won’t improve your job prospects” they told me, not realising that many jobs simply require a masters in a range of subjects, not just in a specific area.

Whether it is my pass into the upper middle class and financial stability or not, the masters changed me so much. I started out knowing that things were basically unfair, but the masters gave me specific tools to measure that unfairness, while the reading of various philosophers opened my mind to unthought of possibilities.

I make money to pay my rent through teaching. I started to notice the theory in real life. How boys readily answer questions more in class, how girls seem to like dancing and not play football.

Here are some practical things I do in my ESL classes now, since the masters:

I don’t treat all students the same

There is nothing more unequal than treating men and women the same. Women are discouraged from playing football, men singing and dancing. So I try to encourage each group in what their normally discouraged from.

Fancy dress is for everyone, as is singing and dancing
I have a big box of old fancy dress stuff to use in class to motivate younger kids to read. I let the boys pick first, and I also do their make up first for special events like Halloween.

I play football/soccer with the kids at break time

I’ve played football a handful of times. But when I’m teaching little kids, I make sure they see me playing football with them for a few minutes of their break.

I ignore the boys

When I’m answering a question from a girl, boys very often interrupt to ask their own question. I ignore them or say: Wait!

I let everyone answer

Every class when we are correcting, we go round in a circle and everyone gives one answer

I ask the girls what sport they did today

I believe that sport (or lack of access to sport) is a major part of modern female oppression, affecting physical and mental health, as well as with social and self-esteem implications. That’s why I ask the girls what sport they’ve done today.

I use a pink ball in class, with skipping ropes that have “boy” colours

Studies have shown that girls are more likely to use pink balls, while boys don’t necessarily associate skipping ropes with being “for girls”.

I don’t criticise myself

I don’t allow young women to hear me saying I’m on a diet or anything like that. Firstly, because I’m not, and secondly, because that’s harmful to them. I dress casually and spend a short amount of time each day on my appearance.

 

Do you think about gender equality in your classes? What things do you practice daily?

White Feminism

I read this article:

http://www.eldiario.es/aragon/sociedad/feminismo-libros-existe-comunidad-conoce_0_605090360.html

It’s almost impossible not to be a white feminist, but I have to try.

In my masters in Feminism, we were talking about men who want to enter women only spaces. I asked if whites wanted to enter black only spaces in the same way, as I see racism and sexism as different but parallel. The professor said “We don’t need to fight racism anymore. Barack Obama is president”.

I was stunned. This whole exchange was in Spanish, so I felt I couldn’t really articulate why I found this so intrinsically wrong. But I will say it here.

Part of feminism is making allies. We are strong, independent, bad ass nasty women. But we do need allies. So if I’m asking a man to give up his privilege, how can I do that without trying to work on my white privilege?

Sometimes in these conversations in activist communities, it’s like there’s a concept that there’s only a finite amount of resources, so if we talk about thing x it’ll take resources from thing y.

I’m old in terms of life experience, but young in terms of activism. I don’t know if resources are finite. I’m just going to walk through my life, trying my best to stand up to my oppression as a woman, and learn not to contribute to the oppression of others.

One thing that struck me about what Antoinette Torres Soler says in the article is that people don’t expect her to be articulate, or a home owner. So she’s saying, that because of the colour of her skin, people don’t realise that she’s middle class and educated. I wonder what she does for the women who are really living that stereotypical reality today, the ones who don’t own houses, nor speak Spanish like a native. I wonder if she worries about that, like I worry about being a white feminist.

Feminism Ruined My Life

One day, there was a girl from Wales, who tripped over her words in Spanish, who wasn’t bilingual, and who thought that if only she did a masters, and went to university in Spanish, her level in the language would be somehow “proper”. Or at least she would feel better about it.

Unfortunately, she chose to do an MA in Feminism (with a bit of Gender on the side). As we all know, things are completely fucked for women, from walking home at night, to getting interrupted constantly, to always being expected to do the jobs that society values less for free, to being told by society that we need to apologise all the time. I could go on.

Well, the masters taught her why all that shit happens, and exactly how to measure it, and instead of making her happier, it made her angrier.

“Don’t you love me anymore?” she said to her boyfriend one day.

“Not with that haircut” he said.

And so, she picked up her large, black and white bastard of a cat, and she left. Her boyfriend was more bothered about her taking the cat than he was about her, seeing as her mother had died the year before and he hadn’t wanted to come with her. He had never loved her and it was for the best that they broke up, but her life was still ruined because every day, she noticed everything. All the shit sexist stuff in the world. And everyone else told her it wasn’t real, or she was too sensitive, she was exaggerating, things were better now than before so stop whining etc. And she just wanted to smack them in their happy little ignorant faces with her burning bra and say “my back hurts. Pay me the same as a man! And don’t tell me to put smiley faces on my Whatsapps or else I look like I’m ‘angry’. And believe me when I say that a man is sexually threatening me. For fucks sake!”.

Pretty soon, she found it harder and harder to hold her tongue when there was dickery afoot. Time after time, she had conflicts with her friends stupid boyfriends/husbands, those ones that manage to bag an amazing girl just because they have a huge, throbbing, stable, salary, and a family and identity for that person to absorb as their support system, and so, one by one, her friends dropped out of her life. “See you when you’re divorced”, she thought.

The friends from the masters all disappeared. Either they were from the Basque Country and they were busy with their cuadrillas, their real friends, or they were from another town and their parents patience was running thin at financing their lifestyles, so they had to go home.

She started seeing a new boy. At first, he gave her a good seeing to. He seemed nice, almost completely unhorrible. But he did love to give his opinion about her hair. “You looked so much nicer with long hair”. Later he said: “Leave this whole Feminism thing. It’s not doing you any good. Will it get you a job?”.

The girl knew that it would actively stop her getting a job. That she would lose friends (as she already had), contacts etc., and in conforming less to traditional ideas of femininity, would be less “likeable”, whatever that means.

The girl liked dick a lot, but she realised, especially after fucking this person more than 10 times and only coming twice, that dick is not everything. She liked talking to this boy but he was always giving his uninformed opinions loudly, as if he was an expert. “Oh dear” she thought. “How can I hear this constant negativity less but still get my end away?”.

Her choices were limited. Now that she had cut her hair and stopped smiling, considerably less men sexually threatened her in the street, which of course was great, but a lot less men seemed to want to play hide the sausage with her.

Maybe it was time to have a purpose driven life.

El mito del matriarcado*

“Es un matriarcado. Por eso, nadie folla” te dice el machuno. Es un machuno, pero si lo dices tú, sus amiguitos le defienden como “chico normal”, como si su clase social fuese excusa para comportarse como gilipollas. Soy güiri, entonces a los varones en País Vasco les encanta explicarme cosas, como las mujeres aquí son tan malas, etcetera.

Let’s break this down. Por qué no deconstruyamos la “lógica” de esta propuesta.

Primero, la definición de matriarcado. Vamos a utilizar el diccionario Real Academia Español, aunque cambiaron la definición de femenino como “débil” en el año 2014.

1. m. Organización social, tradicionalmente atribuida a algunos pueblos primitivos, en que el mando corresponde a las mujeres.

2. m. Predominio o fuerte ascendiente femenino en una sociedad o grupo.

Ahora bien, históricamente, Euskal Herria es una sociedad en la que mujeres pueden heredar, y administran el dinero de la familia. Pero siempre bajo la supervisión del cura. Para los vascos hoy en día, la definición moderna del matriarcado suele ser que la mujer controla el dinero del hombre, mientras los hombres juegan cartas y las mujeres se quedan en sus jaulas doradas con los críos.

Los vascos no follan por razones simples y que pasan en muchos sitios. Como mujer dentro de un patriarcado, para ganar en el juego con las reglas tal y como están, debes encontrar el hombre con los más recursos para ti. Si follas mucho, y es sabido que follas mucho, pierdes tu valor social, tanto aquí como en cualquier otro sitio. Las propias mujeres hacemos esto cuando llamamos a una chica “slut”, y tiene toda la lógica del mundo. Son principios económicos básicos. Si tu único poder es el sexo, si alguien lo da gratis, tienes menos poder, tu moneda tiene menos valor.

Euskal Herria es catolico, y también tiene cuadrillas. He estado igual 10 veces con una cuadrilla clásica, y experimente de primer mano como los varones controlan con quien las mujeres hablan. Me cogieron por el brazo si hable con alguien fuera del grupo para controlarme. En el momento, no hice nada, igual por shock, igual por coerción.

Luego, parece que muchos hombres de aquí no saben como ser amigos (o igual fingir serlo…) con las mujeres. A veces, hablar casualmente con un vasco tengo la sensación de que, psicológicamente, me está pegando en la cara. Me dicen que hablo con una voz demasiado alto, que debería comportarme mejor, que debería compartir cartas con mi pareja… En fin, queda claro que no tienen experiencia de jugar con las niñas, que no tienen ninguna idea de como relacionarse con las mujeres.

Y no follar? Pues, si fuese un matriarcado, habrá mucho más sexo, ya que las mujeres pueden tener orgasmos multiples y que nuestra sexualidad no es limitada a una erection que dura muy poco tiempo.

One love bonobos!

 

*Escrito en castellenglish. Va a haber errores. Deal with it.

Another Sex Attack

“I have something I need to tell you” my friend said to me. We were walking through the old town. It was her last night in this place. She was going home a few days later, to work at a great new job she’d managed to find.

“Last year I was attacked on my way home. I was walking up the stairs, from Unamuno plaza to Uribarri, and a man attacked me. He was touching me all over. I fought him off. I ran.

“Afterwards I couldn’t study. I didn’t go out. I only told my housemate”

The bottom fell out of my stomach. Horrible. Horrible. My friend had suffered, and she hadn’t told me. She hadn’t said anything.

Our immediate reaction is to make our loved one’s pain about us. Of course she couldn’t tell me. She was overwhelmed. I understood.

I asked her if she reported it and everything. She said she did.

“The police were great some times, other times not. They showed me photos and I had to identify the guy [who was non-European]. All the photos showed men with bruises on their faces. I think that the police had already beat them up.”

Men leave their home countries looking for a better life. Unable to progress or get decent work, they attack women to support their bruised masculinity. Then the police systematically abuse those men. Then they attack us more.

The circle of violence continues.

 

1 in 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

Men don’t realise this as this is our locker room talk, how to avoid being raped (Clue: there is no way to avoid it as we are not responsible for the sexual violence that we suffer. We survive psychologically under a mixture of denial of how bad the problem is or the notion that we can in some way control it)

 

I don’t love you anymore with short hair

My boyfriend of almost four years didn’t love me, so I broke up with him. Did I love him? I think so. But I loved myself more, and I couldn’t handle the way he was trying to control me, so I left him.

He wasn’t serious about having a relationship with me. He couldn’t compromise. If I wanted to do thing A, and he wanted to do thing C, he would not look for thing B. He would not even consider option B. For him, meeting in the middle was other people doing exactly what he wanted. Sadly, I did that. But only for about 10 seconds.

He physically couldn’t empathise. He didn’t want to spend time with me outside of the house. We only saw each other in the apartment we rented. He drank a lot.

Two of our friends who were a couple broke up, but were still friends. “I admire that. I hope we can be like that” I said. “When [not if] we break up, I will never speak to you again. My friends are my family”. Why do I live with someone who speaks to me like that? Why do I spend so much of my time with someone who sees me as disposable?

He didn’t come to my mother’s funeral. I should have ended it then but I was too broken to move out.

It all started when we moved to Bilbao. He fell in with a bunch of very traditional, very culturally Catholic Bilbao guys, the type who shout and sexually threaten women in the street, then complain they don’t get any sex because it’s a “matriarchy”, completely ignoring the fact that women can have multiple orgasms and that if it were up to us there’d be a lot more sex in the world. They brag about cheating on their girlfriends, as if it were something to be proud of, they refused to call me by my name, insisted that I share cards with my boyfriend (a girl doesn’t know how to play poker, do they… After I wiped the floor with them, I was never invited back), and screamed racial slurs in my friends’ faces. He wanted to fit in with them, so he ignored all the ways that they disrespected women in general, and me specifically. I was making it all up, I was exaggerating, my feminism course was the real problem… After 2 years of arguments in our 4 year relationship, I’d just had enough. If he could turn a blind eye to this, what else would he turn a blind eye to? These friends were his “family”. I was nothing.

Every relationship I have ever had with a man has basically started and ended the same way, although the time span, names, faces, and nationalities have varied. “You’re so different to other girls” they tell me. “I love how strong and independent you are. My last girlfriend always wanted me to travel with her, she could never go anywhere alone” they croon. “I love the way you talk so openly about sex” they say.

Then, everything about my strong character seems to start to bug them. Or maybe I just seem to attract men who are looking for a challenge, who get off on breaking the wild horse. Why do you have to talk so loudly? You’re so vulgar. Stop acting like a man, you’re a woman. Don’t go on that trip, anything could happen. I like your hair long. Are you cheating on me?

“You’re becoming too feminist” he told me, six months before I left him.

I still thought it could work. I thought if I just explained to him in the right way, just… I deluded myself, as does everyone who sleeps with the enemy. Fear of being alone made with stay with him. I also liked the way that very few men sexually harassed me while I was “taken”.

“What’s the matter, don’t you love me anymore?” I said quietly, after coming back from a trip.

“Not with that haircut, no” he said quietly. “I don’t love you anymore with that haircut”.

“Ok. I’ll leave  this weekend then”. And I did.

He cried every time I saw him after that. I had to be strong and move my stuff out. He cried and cried. “My friend asked me was I willing to change anything. I said no. I’m not willing to even think about changing one thing”.

“Why are you fucking crying then? You’ve made me do this. All I asked you to do was listen. That’s all I asked”.

I put on a brave face to my friends. “I’m fine” I said. I really wasn’t fine, but after having survived the agony of losing my mum two years ago, this was unpleasant, this was painful, but it was like a nasty paper cut compared to losing an arm. There was no comparison.

I felt sad. I did feel sad. I do feel sad. I grieve the loss of the relationship. But in the end, our dreams did not even come close  to aligning (namely because he had few dreams and was not willing to make them work with mine, although they were very compatible), and all of my dreams he outright hated and tried to steer me away from with his negativity. One day I want to foster girls, I want to give them a home and love them unconditionally for as long as I can. He said he hated children. I thought “Maybe it’s a silly dream”.

Another dream. I want to buy a van and travel around, then live in my van while I build my own house. He told me that I can’t because I can’t change a tyre. I said I’d learn. He said he didn’t want to go, that he’d rather take a back pack. I told him he wasn’t invited.

Another, smaller dream. One day, I want a dog. He has a phobia of dogs. I said I had a phobia of men, and unlike him and dogs, men have actually attacked me, and all women live beneath the constant threat of violence from men. He told me that my feminism course was ruining our relationship. I told him the feminism course was more important than a relationship with him. He tried to pay for my dinner, claim my swiss army knife was his, be the macho man in public. I seethed.

I stayed so long because the sex was still good, and as a female, I feel that selecting men for sex is like playing the penile lottery. (Maybe it’s too long, maybe (more likely) it’s too small. Maybe it’s a good size but prematurely ejaculates. Maybe the man it’s attached to is so self-absorbed that he’s entirely untrainable in the art of getting you off and gets miffed when you do it for yourself).

Usually, in my previous relationships, the sex peters out and that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but that wasn’t the case in this one. I suggested to him we carry on boning. He declined. What a waste of good flesh, I thought. Life is just too short.

To a beautiful girl

15 years old, and the life of the party. A smile like the skin, and skin that burns so brightly you can’t look away.
Bragging about going out drinking.
You say you’ve quit smoking weed, but you offer me a joint.
Discovering sex, and the frail power that gives you.
You talk about sleeping with men 2 and a half times your age.
Fights with your mother.
Partying until dawn.

We are so different but you remind me of me when I was a tearaway teen. You think now that your friends are your family, and that they would be by your side forever. You’ve never tasted that  disappointment.

Fights with your mother. I’m 27, 12 years older than you, and I have just watched my mother die. What I wouldn’t give for one more blazing row with her. Cherish every moment.

Speaking Up, Educating, or Cowardly Silence?

My friend had a friend come to stay, so I went to meet them for an afternoon of fun.

This friend seemed nice enough, but a bit sort of frenetic energy, a bit gossipy, but basically alright.

In telling me the story of their adventures the previous night, this girl started to talk about realising that they were dancing next to a trans woman. She referred to the person as “transvestite”, “man”, and “he”. I asked some questions about her appearance as I thought I had seen a trans-woman but the person I saw had light brown hair and the trans-woman they saw last night was young, with very dark hair.

I didn’t correct the person speaking but I didn’t sneer with her, and she started to back pedal a little bit. “Transvestite and transexual. I never know the difference”. I explained, neutrally, using my limited knowledge.

The conversation flowed on. I wondered if I did the right thing (by not reacting and explaining what I knew) or if I was cowardly. My anger wasn’t triggered because I’m not part of the group being attacked, so I was able to calmly respond with factual explanations, not shaming the other person in order to “win”.
I wonder if the conversation served to help this woman change her point of view. I suppose it’s our life experiences that cause us to rethink our positions and resulting behaviour.

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