Saturday, 30 August 2014

Tribute to Feminists

On Monday I’m having my graduation ceremony. I will be officially recognized as university graduate and I will gain Masters of Science in Humanitarian Action degree. I will join the group of people whose persistence and ambition got them through their studies and help them gain widely recognized qualifications that will impact on our future.

But all of this wouldn’t be possible without feminism. Of course, I did all of the work, I wrote the thesis, I endured everything that was there to endure during exams sessions. But at the same time, I cannot underestimate the impact that feminism had on this situation.

So this is the tribute to all of the feminists and human rights activists that worked hard and sacrificed their life so I (and many more girls and women) can had a better future.

I would like to thank every suffragette and feminist who worked so I can vote and who fought for equal access to education and admission to the university. If it wasn’t for you, not only I would have no say over my life, I wouldn’t be able to gain this degree and basically, I wouldn't be able to decide about the future of my country and my family.

I am eternally grateful to all of the feminists, who advocated and still advocate for equal pay, better employment opportunities for women and assessment of abilities based on merit not gender. Your hard work will make it easier for me to get a job that matches my skills and isn’t below my ambitions.

I take my hat off to all of the brave women who proved to the entire world that women are not whimsical, weak, emotional and vulnerable. Thanks to you I was not afraid to persist in following my dreams, tested my abilities in various settings and persevered even the most unsuspected situations. I am strong because I am a woman and being a woman means being strong.

I would like to also acknowledge the hard work of reproductive rights activists and feminists advocating for free love. Owing to you, I can make informed decision about my body, when to start (and later on expand) my family and at the same time enjoy amazing sex without worrying about unwanted pregnancy.
This tribute wouldn’t be complete without special thanks to my fellow blogger, Inanna. If we weren’t brave enough to speak our mind and admit to the world (and ourselves) that we are feminist, we wouldn’t have found out each other in the sea of bullshit on Facebook. Thanks to this special connection we now have a platform to share our thoughts, cogitations and interpretations of reality. Without you I wouldn’t be strong enough to endure all of the patriarchal, sexist and misogynistic content that keeps pouring out from everywhere. Without you I wouldn’t be willing to explain to people some basic truths about feminism, men and women.

Finally, I want to thank the three most amazing feminists from the bottom of my heart, who means world to me and are a great support and inspiration to me: my parents and my boyfriend.

My parents taught me the importance of always improving yourself. I was loved and I was allowed to find myself (not always without a protest or nagging) and pursue the education that I wanted. We had our fights, but once I made up my mind and chose the discipline I love, I could count on their endless support and assistance. They never denied me anything that could result in me being better person. For that, I am eternally grateful. Generally, my family is pretty awesome!

My boyfriend came a long way since we are together. I started to date a childish teenager (even though he was 24-years-old), who thought only about himself and didn’t have much perspective in life. Now I am desperately in love with a grown-up man, who has his dreams and ambitions, but who at the same time does everything in his power to help me in pursuit of my dreams. He understands my need for travel and freedom, so he gives me as much space as I want, but still he is always around to protect me from dangers that are beyond my capabilities to deal with them alone. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to mature as a woman and flourish as a superb and unique human being.

I always aimed at helping people. My particular interest encompass violence, especially sexual violence, its impact on victims (and survivors) and psychopathology of perpetrators and ways to prevent those crimes. And I am feminist.

So as the future masters graduate I pledge to continue the brilliant work of human rights, women rights and in general equal rights activists and try to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. I pledge to fight for equality and safety, I will do everything in my power to protect and ensure that every person lives with dignity and receives respect that everybody deserves. I will not rest until I make this world a slightly better place than it had been before I was born.

Written by Vespertilio

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Strength and Male Superiority

Since we started this blog I began noticing the amount of people (not only man) who still believe that women are inferior to men. Some of them claim that women in general are less intelligent (when confronted with opposing statistics claim that women have lesser percentage of extraordinary talent compared to men), others simply have some women hate issues, but what all those people have in common is a one argument that never fails to come up: strength. Men are stronger than women, therefore superior and more important (sic).

I am not blind or removed from reality. I acknowledge the simplicity of biological differences between sexes. Men are statistically higher than women, but does it mean they should look down on us?

First, let’s check definitions of two words that usually get mixed up in a debate about male strength. Identity and equality are two words that make a lot of difference in this topic, so let’s give it a look.

According to Oxford dictionary, “identity” means close similarity or affinity, whereas “equality” means the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities. Having that in mind, as civilized human beings we should all agree that although man and women are biologically different (not identical), they are inherently equal. Just like people with black and white skin are biologically different, they don’t look identical, yet they deserve equal rights and opportunities. I know that even today not everyone agrees with me on the last sentence, which really spoils my fun of having such solid example.

If it wasn't for countless debates with hardcore misogynists I would probably never grasp the logic behind the claim that men are stronger than women and therefore superior to them.

When I was growing up I heard word “feminism” from my father who claimed that feminism ends when you have to drag a piano to third floor. This is a very common saying in Poland. It implies that women are helpless in absence of male muscle. I can’t stop myself here from adding that it was my mom who would always paint the walls in our house, hammer nails into the walls or try to fix broken things. I honestly don’t know how people place a piano in apartment on third floor or higher, but I can only imagine that it involves employing some labors, nothing really expensive (probably male, since they are stronger).  Since feminist movement enabled me to access higher education and go to work, fighting for me to have equal pay, I would probably be able to pay four guys to drag my piano, or my sofa up the stairs. See? Feminism doesn't end here.

Females are supposedly inferior to males due to their strength because it provides them the unique ability to successfully defend a country. (Here again I cannot stop myself and have to add that Polish males don’t really have so many historical proves for successful protection of their homeland.)

Firstly, let’s admit that majority of those “defenses” are actually “offences”  of other countries, so maybe – just maybe, if we didn't have the race to prove who is bigger and stronger we wouldn't have so many offences. But that’s not important here.

While only three countries in the world have mandatory female military service there are some remarkable examples of female soldiers that prove that women in army are not there by mistake.

Kurdish women should be famous by now as an example of voluntary military service. Kurds have a very unfortunate history of being screwed by Turkey and by Saddam Hussein. Many Kurdish families in Iraq have lost their sons and fathers. With this history of pain and loss women had enough. Kurdish women have nearly 30 years of experience in combat; PKK has one of the largest numbers of female fighters. Kurdish women are also a part of YPG in Syria as well as Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq. Just recently media published few reports on Kurdish women training and swearing to fight ISIS, Islamic militant group, a spill out from Syria that is trying to take over Iraq and create Islamic State. I also heard some reports that ISIS ordered FGM on all females aged 12 to 45 in area under their control, but reports are denied by ISIS.

“Since the beginning, Kurdish women have played an integral role in the Kurdishmovement. They fight and they protest, they vote and they get elected to office. And somewhere along the way they achieved a (very complicated, highly controversial, maybe lasting or even replicable) liberation.”

Kurdish women became politicized after witnessing horrible crimes and experienced murders of their loved ones. In the process they created an organization within PKK and had significant influence on Kurdish cause by fighting with both guns and pens, in Turkey, Syria and now Iraq.

I would also like to briefly mention Israeli Defense Forces, which are among two other armies recruiting all citizens for mandatory 2 year service irrespective of their sex. I picked Israel specifically because even though the country is surrounded by enemies from all sides and was attacked the next day after its creation, they never lost a single war. It’s remarkable to notice that females are 51% (MAJORITY!!!) of IDF’s officers, despite being only 33% of soldiers.

Women make up 33% of the IDF, taking into consideration their shorter service in comparison to males," Brig. Gen. Kalifi-Amir said. "51% of IDF officers are females serving as both career soldiers and reservists. Women also make up 3% of the IDF's combat soldiers and 15% of technical personnel. Additionally, there is a significant decrease in the number of women serving as secretaries, indicating a change in perception.

Earlier this week, Brig. Gen. Kalifi - Amir honored the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and said that "The IDF values human dignity as one of its guiding ethics in all its operations and activities. The IDF and its soldiers maintain this value out of the understanding that every human is valuable regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, rank and position."

Hopefully you grasp my point by now and we can move on.

I would really like to take the argument of male strength out of coal mine and into XXI century, the time of radical change in social sphere, but also in economy. As we moved from manufacturing economy into service economy in developed world, need for manly muscle strength reduced. Since we no longer need strong men to lift heavy bags in the work place as much as we need technology and caring customer service, men’s employment is dropping. Jobs that require strength, like lumberjack, are among worst paid jobs. I will say no more and leave the stage for woman who published a book on that topic, Hanna Rosin. Here are few quotes from her book, "The End of Men" that I find truly groundbreaking.

In 2009, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who continue to hover around 50 percent. 
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2011, women hold 51.4% of managerial and professional jobs – up from 26.1% in 1980. They make up 61.3% of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45% of associates in law firms – and both those percentages are rising fast as women come to dominate law and medical schools. 
At some point in last forty years, the job market became largely indifferent to size and strength, and from then on, in many pockets of the workforce, men no longer held the cards. Technology began to work against men, making certain brown jobs obsolete and making what economists call “people skills” ever more valuable.
Of the fifteen job categories projected to grow the most in the United States over the next decade, twelve are occupied primarily by women.
Next time when you hear males boasting about superiority of their biceps, rest assured it doesn't really give them much advantage in the world we live in. If they want, they can go back and live in caves, but I’m pretty sure not many women would agree to move in with them. Life is simply too good for us ladies to take a step back, and we have feminist movement to thank for it. 

You can also watch Ted talk by Hanna Rosin here

Written by Inanna
There is not much to miss about the past, unless you enjoy being someones life line. Or unless you are a man. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

That little freakin’ devil that’s always around…

That little freakin’ devil I’m talking about is everyday sexism, obviously. However, today I would like to talk about acceptance of everyday sexism. We as a society are slowly starting to be sensitive to open and hostile examples of sexism – domestic violence, hateful comments,  etc. but we are still either ignorant or passive towards these small displays of sexism that seems like nothing. But they are something. Something actually quite big. And very serious.

Because even the smallest example of sexism, such as jokes or remarks indicates that there is prevalent tendency for treating women with contempt and at the same time undermining their circumstances, successes, achievements, themselves.

The worst thing is that we’ve learned to ignore the exhibits of sexism so not to be perceived as uptight or, even worse, feminist! Especially women are quietly putting up with all the jokes, pinches and insults delivered by men in a “non-serious” fashion, because we are conditioned that women and their issues are perfect subjects to joke about.

So we are told to lighten-up when we hear a joke about rape (because obviously it’s the best subject to joke about) or domestic violence (“taming your woman”) or vaginas (because something that gives a men so much pleasure and holds so much power needs to be laughted at) or lack of professionalism (“If you were a man it would be done better”) and being overly emotional in a conversation (“Control your hormones”). Jokes are a part of everyday interaction, so we should just accept them and come to terms with this sad reality.

Sometime ago I went with my boyfriend to hang out with his friends. At one time it became apparent that there was a feminist in a room (Oh my God, it’s me!) and sexist. I bore some of the remarks (even though those wasn’t really sophisticated), but I cracked up in one point. The abovementioned sexist ask my boyfriend a question:

“What would you prefer: to be with very sexy woman who cheats on you or with a normal good girl who is faithful to you?”

My boyfriend at first had no idea what’s the deal, so he said that basically he is with the sexiest and bestest woman ever who is faithful to him, so it’s no brainer (Awwwwww, he’s a sweetheart!). But the sexist pressured him to give an answer, so my bf replied that of course he would prefer to be with a girl who is faithful to him.

Than the friend asked again: “Well, but would you prefer to eat cake with friends or eat shit alone?”


I was shocked. For me it was like a slap in the face. With a chair. How could ANYBODY feel entitled to compare another human being to shit? How full of yourself (or shit) you have to be to even allow yourself to make this kind of comparison of another people? And feeling that you are in a position to make distinctions between “pretty” and “shitty” woman and subsequently have a real power over validation which women belong to which category.

I’m embarrassed to say as a result of shock I said few stupid misandrist jokes (I hate those, but I really wanted to make him shut up in a most belittling way possible). I achieved my goal (he shut up), but I still feel bad for saying insults towards men (it’s really not my style).

But that’s not all. The situation got even more shocking when, after all of this, I got to talk with other women in the room. They told me to not care about him and his jokes, because it’s just the way he is. Their solution is to just ignore his jokes and then everybody will be happy (because we don’t want to create a tense situation, because somebody might get offended).

If you don't want to listen
to me, then listen to
Ryan Gosling
Why people are so reluctant to object when another person displays sexist and misogynistic attitudes? Why is hardly anybody ever standing up to this kind of jokes and let others know that it’s not funny? Why we keep accepting sexist jokes, even though these are hurtful, offensive, prejudiced and most of the time absolutely unfunny?

I’ve been in various social situations when some controversial jokes where said and somebody stood up to a joker. Those included racist jokes (Man, it’s racist, it’s not funny), jokes about dead foetuses (that’s disgusting, I don’t find this funny), jokes about handicapped people or with some illness (Sick people are no laughing matter, not cool, dude). etc. But I’ve never been a witness to man standing up to sexist jokes. As if those existed in some kind of realm of immunity – a person can be openly sexist in jokes and nobody says anything in fear of…

Yeah, of what? Being called uptight? A bore? Oh wait… a feminist? What’s so terrible about that?

I had this rule about the jokes that if they are about a group of people (men, women, blacks, Chinese, Mexicans, etc.), I find them funny only if you can substitute a certain group with any other (usually the main privileged one) and the jokes will still be funny.

Of course, there are some jokes where the main character cannot be exchange into anything else (jokes about talking parrot), but those are usually not insulting to the main subject of the joke. But that’s beside the point.

Let’s take the abovementioned joke and apply my rule (and let’s make it even more stereotypically womanish).

Vespertilio: Inanna, what would you prefer: to be with this sexy and super rich guy who cheats on you or with a normal, quite poor, but good man who is faithful to you?
Inanna: Well, Vespertilio, I would most certainly prefer to be with a faithful guy.
Vespertilio: Seriously? Well, but do you think is better to share caviar with friends in a posh restaurant or to eat shit alone in a shack?

(To be honest, I feel ashamed to even write this to prove a point). 
Ashamed lion to show you how ashamed I feel.

What are your feelings towards this joke now? Is it offensive? Too aggressive? Too man-hating? Does it treat men as objects?

Now the big question: How many men do you know that would feel offended by this joke?

And if you were a part of audience, would you say something to a woman who said this joke?

I know I would, but I did remark the first joke as well. How about you?

Let’s get back for a second to the deliverer of a joke. The sexist. I just don’t get it. Where does this masculine sense of entitlement come from? How can any man feel to hold the right to debase ANY woman?
In this case we have to spectrums: me, who never comments on somebody appearance, because I’m not a beauty and besides I feel that everybody is beautiful in way; and him, a man who feels that he has a right to judge.

If you want to have a woman that looks like
Victoria Secret model, you should look like
one of Calvin Klein models.
But after that joke, I looked at him and I saw him with critical eye and the situation just got hilarious and ridiculous at the same time. There he was, this almost middle-aged man, fat, bold, with questionable hygiene and not really pleasant appearance, who has been alone for a long time, unable to pick up a girl (I know it from his various stories), afraid of rejection, who has nothing special to offer to a woman (he was neither sexy, handsome, smart, witty nor well-spoken), and yet he felt that he has a choice of women and he can choose a porn star over a normal, but in his eyes “shitty” woman.

Well that’s just bullshit.

I remember once my friend said that equality between women and men will be achieved when this fat, sweaty, bolding, unattractive woman will be walking down the street and she will be convinced that every men on the street wants to have sex with her. Well, there is nothing wrong with high self-esteem, but when this self-esteem translates into certainty of privilege to somebody’s attention, body and integrity, then we are a witnesses of everyday sexism.

Everyday sexism is a phenomenon which disproportionally befall the women. Staring, catcalling, grabbing, harassing, stalking in public places and belittling, degrading and humiliating in workplace, schools, social gatherings. Just from the top of my head I can describe many situations where I’ve been grabbed, harassed, slapped in the ass. I’ve been a victim of frotters, voyeurs, stalkers and flashing. Countless of times I’ve heard that I’m less intelligent, vain, emotional and irrational – all judgements based on the fact that I’m a woman. And since I’m declared feminist, nobody values my opinion, because it’s perceived as distorted, irrational and overly aggressive (even though I didn’t have a possibility to speak my mind, not to mention raise my voice).

And above all of that I was put into the category “women like shit” by some insolent and half-wit sexist, who believed that he’s male privilege allows him to comment on women in any way he pleases, because it’s his "birth right".

Everyday sexist is serious not because of the level of harassment it implies, but mainly because it’s scope and prevalence. Every woman has plenty stories to tell. But the worst thing about everyday sexism is that it widely unrecognised, ignored and depreciated issue that all of the women of all ages are facing.

Written by Vespertilio