Festive Left Friday Blogging: Tania the Immortal

tania-in-havana

Tamara “Tania” Bunke (circled, and in inset, above) was a many-faceted, multi-talented young woman. Fluent in at least three languages, she worked as a translator/interpreter in pre-unification East Germany, Cuba, and Argentina. She was also an intelligence agent and a dedicated Communist…and in the end, a guerrilla who died fighting the CIA-backed Barrientos dictatorship in Bolivia. Her remains were initially buried in Vallegrande, Bolivia, but were later repatriated to Cuba, where they lie in the same Santa Clara mausoleum as those of her famous comrade, Che Guevara, also in the picture. Her memory, however, remains very much alive everywhere she went, both in Cuba and in present-day Germany:

Hans Modrow, honorary president of the German party, Die Linke (The Left), presented the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) yesterday with several belongings of Tamara Bunke Bider (a.k.a. Tania the Guerrilla), who fought alongside Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia.

Among the possessions are a uniform shirt and pants, a note pad, a school notebook, photographs and letters. Modrow made the presentation in representation of Cubasí, a German organization in solidarity with the island, which kept the objects until now.

Nadia Bunke, Tania’s mother, treasured the belongings until her death. Later, they were given to Cubasí.

“We will work to keep Tania’s memory alive,” said Modrow. He added that she left her mark in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), through her work in various leftist organizations.

Carolina Aguilar, an Argentine member of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), recounted moments from Tania’s life, from her birth in Argentina on November 19, 1937, until her murder in Bolivia on August 31, 1967, emphasizing her time in Cuba when both women were members of the Institute of Argentine-Cuban Friendship, which offered aid to the nascent revolution directed by Fidel Castro.

Aguilar said that Tania became a heroine and an example to young Latin American and Caribbean women.

Kenia Serrano, president of ICAP, announced the creation of the Tamara Bunke Bider Club of Voluntary Translators, in honor of this woman who worked as an interpreter of languages such as Russian, German and Spanish at various world events.

Later, Serrano presented Modrow with a portrait of Tamara by the Cuban painters Dausel Valdés Piñeiro and Abel Morejón Gala.

Translation mine.

Honor and dignity to the memory of Tania the Guerrilla!

Carina Vogt’s twofold victory

So, women can’t ski-jump, eh? Tell that to this awesome German, who’s as good as any man…and proved it yesterday:

Insanity! For the first time in Olympic history, women were allowed to ski-jump. And then a German police officer candidate won the gold! 22-year-old Carina Vogt of Schwäbisch-Gmünd wasn’t even a favorite. She was even happier after her two jumps, of 97 and 103 metres.

Nobody could grasp it. Carina Vogt landed the best jump, with 103 metres, on her first run. Even commentator Dieter Thoma forgot himself: “Lick me!” hollered the former ski-jumping champ into the microphone, and from there on in, couldn’t stop grinning. He didn’t have to, either, because after the strong-nerved policewoman’s second jump, the leaderboard showed what no one had expected: Gold for Germany!

Even the winner was in a state of shock. As the first reporters stuck their microphones under Carina Vogt’s nose, she could only cry. It was a big, surprising win, and that in more ways than one.

“This is a great moment for equal rights,” said ARD sports host Gerhard Delling of the first ladies’ ski-jumping event in Olympic history. Then a short report showed how hard the women had fought to be there on the jumping-ramp. In 2009 they had even sued the International Olympic Committee for discrimination, because the men’s federation didn’t want to let the women jump at the 2010 Olympic winter games in Vancouver.

In Sochi, things were finally ready. The only sad notes: Those who had fought against the IOC four years ago for women’s ski-jumping, landed in last place. World champion Sarah Hendrickson of the USA was battling a torn knee ligament; her countrywoman Lindsey Van had bad luck with the wind. And the German, Ulrike Gässler, who also took part in the protest, was weakened by the flu.

Carina Vogt knows how much she owes these pioneers: “Before me, two generations of female ski-jumpers brought the sport to where it is today.” Yesterday, she did them all proud.

Translation mine.

Meanwhile, even as history was being made in his own country, some Russian backwardnik was saying this. Guess he never heard that women’s uteri don’t dislodge that easily.

And that a good pair of ovaries can take you more than a tenth of a kilometre through the air.

Music for a Sunday: Polyushko Polye, three ways

Today, we ride a troika. First off, the Red Army choir doing a killer rendition of my favorite old Soviet tune:

And now, the late, great Ivan Rebroff…

…who, despite his stage name, was actually a German (and won medals for distinguished conduct, not in the Red Army or as a Cossack, but in the Bundeswehr). He had me fooled for the longest time, since he sang in both languages quite fluently. He’s so good that he can even accompany himself with the clip-clop of the horses (which the Red Army choir needed a drummer to do). And, interestingly, he never married. Rumor had it he was gay. He never came out, so we’ll just have to draw our own conclusions.

Meanwhile, there’s no doubt about this Brit:

…who sings his own interpretation of the same song over a chorus of Russian navy sailors.

L’affaire Hollande: What “sophistication” costs a woman

Bit of mood music, maestra:

Zut alors! You think François Hollande is in hot water, thanks to his affair with an actress? Bof. He’s doing just fine. His consequences, personal and political, will be minimal, thanks to his adroit cowardice, and especially his gender. But for the women? Well, that’s another story…as EMMA’s Alice Schwarzer writes:

We feminists have fundamentally questioned marriage and advised women against it. At least earlier, when marriage placed men at a judicial advantage, and women at a disadvantage. Now we have to ask if we shouldn’t in fact urgently advise women to marry, at least in some cases. For example, in the case of the French president, François Hollande, 59, and his life companion, Valérie Trierweiler, 48.

What happened?

On January 11, the French gossip magazine, Closer, revealed that the president was having an affair with Julie Gayet, 41. In the meantime, we know that the story has been going on for over two years. The president would meet with the actress in an apartment a few hundred metres from the Elysée Palace. He would ride there on the back of a motor scooter, hanging on to his bodyguard, whom he sometimes ordered to leave croissants at the door in the mornings. Spicy extra detail: The apartment belongs to an actor who is currently in jail due to his connections to the Corsican Mafia.

On January 13, the tabloid, Le Parisien, revealed that Trierweiler had been hospitalized for a “nervous breakdown”. But just two days later, she made it known that she was ready to forgive him. He, however, remained silent, and only visited her sickbed days later.

The rumors of the affair had been running for months through Paris. But she seemed totally caught off guard. The president and his première dame had just come off a state visit to Brazil in December, she in high heels and Frenchly elegant, as well as spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve together. But now Hollande was telling the anxiously waiting nation that he would speak of the matter on February 11. Other than that, the president forbade every question, even at his big new year’s press conference, regarding his “private” life.

Private life? Trierweiler, a journalist by profession, was by no means living privately as the life-companion of the president. At the beginning of Hollande’s presidency, in May 2012, she gave up her career, except for her column in Paris Match, and acted as First Lady to the nation: state visits, receptions, opening daycare centres, honorary postings. For that, she had an office in the Elysée Palace, a budget, and several staffers.

Thanks to the president’s overt affair, all of that has been called into question. Who is Valérie Trierweiler? A mistress. One of several. She is not even Madame Hollande, unlike Mme. Chirac or Mme. Mitterrand. There was plenty of gossip over the affairs of both those presidents as well. But at least their wives were the social and legitimate wives at their men’s side. Even Mitterrand, who supported a second family for decades — with taxes, right down to the rent money and riding lessons for his out-of-wedlock daughter — never called his wife Danielle into question.

But what place does an abandoned mistress have, when her man takes a new mistress? And when the new one, as in this case, is even more popular than the old one, the highly unpopular Trierweiler? Unpopular, because she was often openly nasty to her predecessor. That was the well-known politician, Ségolène Royal, with whom Hollande had lived for 25 years and had four children. With her, too, he was not married.

When Hollande’s affair with Trierweiler became public in 2007, during Royal’s presidential campaign of all times (and surely this was not a coincidence) — that time, too, the then life companion was quickly prepared to forgive him. Royal went even further: She asked Hollande to marry her, with cameras rolling. After 25 years. And what did he do? Remained silent. But shortly thereafter, he spoke. The lover told journalists that Valérie Trierweiler was “the love of my life”. After 25 years with Royal, and four children together.

Hollande and Royal met as students. They are both close to 60 nowadays. 40 years ago, they were 20, and inspired by the May 1968 uprising and the women’s movement. Both are socialists, and Royal a noted feminist. Two modern people, who considered it unnecessary to marry. Just as Hollande later never thought of it either, with Trierweiler. Which now, as he will probably leave her, turns out to be downright practical. For him. He ends a relationship without any documented connection — and she falls into nothingness.

Valérie Trierweiler has just been released from hospital. It’s said that she will go to a spa, she needs “rest”. How convenient for Hollande. Because on February 11, he’s going on a state visit to the Obamas, where the modern French couple was already expected. Surely he won’t be able to take Julie Gayet along to the White House. Not yet.

What a man-drama! Die Welt‘s correspondent in France, Sascha Lehnartz, hit the nail on the head. He wrote: “Please try to imagine the following situation: Angela Merkel has been carrying on for months with [actor] Götz George…and three to five times a week, incognito, rides a moped from the Chancellor’s office to an apartment in Moabit, rented to Bushido. Sometimes she would bring her lover poppy-seed buns from the Chancellery’s own bakery. Joachim Sauer found it out on Friday through an article in the Super-Illu, and is now lying in the neurological department of the Charité with a nervous breakdown. And on Tuesday, Angela Merkel gave an international press conference, in which she said that the minimum wage is a great thing. That, roughly, is the current situation in France. Parbleu.

In actual fact, such stories can’t be turned around. A female head of state, who would never comport herself thus, would have to step down, because everyone would say that she had lost her marbles. But a male head of state who acts that way, according to 77 percent of all French(wo)men, well, that’s just “his private matter”. And they don’t even seem to ask the question whether someone who is so half-hearted and conflict-shy about his love life would not act the same way at his job, as president.

What conclusions are to be drawn from all this? What could one have advised Valérie Trierweiler to do at the beginning of the relationship? To that, there are two contradictory answers. The first one: Get married! The second: Remain strictly autonomous, like Joachim Sauer, the German chancellor’s husband.

The personal is political. So goes one of the most famous slogans of the women’s movement. It has been much misunderstood. In times of rampant exposition, some think that it means that women as well as men should make their private life public. No, it means just what we have just seen in the Hollande/Trierweiler case: The disenfranchisement of women plays itself out even in so-called private life. And that is not the personal problem of the woman in question, but that of all of society.

Translation mine.

Is getting married the feminist thing to do, then? Maybe not in and of itself. But yes, in the case of a prominent and public couple, who are in the spotlight and presumably have a lot of property as well as reputations at stake, it’s a different matter. Especially if, like Valérie Trierweiler, you are actually working in the official capacity of first lady of the land, and not in your original trade (journalism, in her case.) If that’s the way it’s going to be, then yes, marriage is the better way to go.

Whether a first couple has to be “traditional” about it is another matter. When the current president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, married his long-time common-law partner, Cilia Flores (they have a grown son together), it was couched as a patriotic act. They wanted to “strengthen the Venezuelan family”, so they said. They decided to set an example and make a statement about their love. And so they got married…not in white, not in church, but in their everyday clothes and at a registry office in Caracas, with their friend the mayor officiating. Flores is now known as “First Combatant”, not “First Lady”. As a long-time politician and former national-assembly president herself, she has quietly redefined the role of a female politician and political spouse simultaneously. And as a feminist and a strong woman in her own right, she will brook no scandal…and no disenfranchisement on any level. Her comportment during the putsch of 2002 made that clear: Flores, driven into hiding along with several other prominent Bolivarian members of parliament, released a video of herself even as the drama was still unfolding, vehemently protesting the coup and vowing to return at the first moment. Which she did, even though passing through streets potentially filled with unknown assassins and snipers posed a risk to her very life.

How different it is for Madame Trierweiler! She entered her political career (for that is what it is) on the wrong foot, displacing a popular and long-time partner with whom Hollande had four children. She humiliated Ségolène Royal publicly, forcing the latter to propose marriage on camera…and be rejected in the most cowardly manner. She triumphed off her rival’s tragedy. It must have been a heady moment, back when it was all amour fou and making youppi.

And now what’s gone around, has come around. She has gone from being the Other Woman, to being the woman about to get left for yet another Other Woman. And she doesn’t even have the small dignity of a legal marriage to protect her. She gave up everything she was doing…for this. As unsympathetic as she comes off for what she did to Ségo and her four kids, one can’t help pitying her a bit now. Her reputation, already shaky, is in tatters. And so’s her career, which will remain on hold until she regains her health. Who knows when, if or how she will bounce back? The workplace is not kind to middle-aged women re-entering it. Or even women well under middle age; just ask anyone who took time out from her career to be a stay-home mother. A few years can change everything, and bosses are fickle.

But I don’t suppose any of that matters very much to M. Hollande. He already showed what he was made of earlier, with his unceremonious dumping of his partner of a quarter-century. Once more, he conforms to an established pattern. Tant pis.

What has me scratching my head, though, is the blasé attitude toward all this in France. I guess, to a populace jaded with the tax-supported mistress and children of Mitterand, or the way Nicolas Sarkozy, mid-presidency, divorced his femme for a former supermodel (and mistress to Mick Jagger), or the whoremongering, maid-assaulting antics of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, this all must look a bit, well, routine. But there is a growing feminist current in France, as well, and they can’t be unaware of the legal implications of an unmarried couple in this unusual, and very awkward, position. Certainly they can no longer shrug off the sexist implications.

In Canada, this union would be considered a common-law marriage, since Hollande and Trierweiler have been living together for more than three years. As a de facto spouse, Valérie Trierweiler could sue, if not for divorce, then for half of his property, to ensure that she is not left wholly destitute by this sudden abandonment. She would need it, too, if she is unable to work at the moment, as appears to be the case.

Taking mistresses may be practically a marital tradition in France; the term “French marriage” was coined for situations where a couple stays married, but one or both still may have assignations on the side. Unfortunately, it appears that there aren’t sufficient provisions in French law here for a mistress who is married in all but name, and who gave up everything for her lover’s career. Not only is the situation awkward in that there is an unmarried first couple, but if he leaves her, it appears that he can make a complete getaway on his motor scooter, unscathed…and she is left scrambling to pick up the pieces of her very publicly shattered life.

Yes, the personal is political, even in modern France. And amatory “sophistication” comes with its own price, one paid in much more than just heart’s blood. Sadly, the women in François Hollande’s life have found out just how little recourse they truly have, and how steeply the deck is stacked against them.

FEMEN protest in Berlin as prostitution law reforms loom

femen-artemis

Five FEMEN members in Berlin chained themselves to the trademark “Berlin Bears” outside the entry to one of the city’s biggest bordellos yesterday. And as EMMA reports, this comes as the Bundestag debates what to do about Germany’s lax and embarrassing prostitution laws:

Five FEMEN demonstrators chained themselves to the two Berlin Bears in front of the entrance to the megabordello “Artemis”. Some johns gave them a wide berth. Others didn’t let that scare them off. The FEMEN message: Prostitutes are living in chains, and not only in this bordello. It’s time to break these chains!

“Even at the reception desk, our lovely ladies will greet you with a smile,” says an ad for “Artemis” in Berlin, just one kilometre away from the Berliner Messe. On Wednesday night, the johns didn’t get such a nice reception. At 8:00 p.m. the FEMEN showed up in cars, and took off their tops. On their skin they had painted slogans like “Don’t cum on human rights!” and “Go rape yourself!” They chained themselves on the woman-sized bear figurines, the trademark of the capital city, in front of the entrance of a so-called FKK-club.

It took half an hour for the police to arrive and sever the chains with bolt-cutters. Meanwhile, there was a scuffle as two (female) workers from Artemis tried to stop the five women’s protest.

Some of the johns turned around in the parking lot at the sight of the FEMEN at the entrance. Others didn’t let either the activists or the police scare them off. They marched into the brothel anyway, according to FEMENstrator Debbie. “That shows one more time that prostitution has arrived in the middle of society.” And: “It’s unbelievable that a world-class city like Berlin should advertise with a bordello, in which women are made into merchandise!” The sexy capital city doesn’t care about that. In Berlin, there have even been public-transit ads for the “wellness brothel”.

Taxi drivers and pensioners pay reduced entry rates to the self-styled “oasis of well-being”. All others, 80 euros — including bathrobe, towel, hairdryer, and breakfast buffet. Now, for the holiday season, there’s even coffee and Christmas cake in the afternoons. Not for the 60 to 70 prostitutes in the bordello, but for the 600 johns for whom there is room.

Whether the guys hanging around in the parking lot in front of Artemis are johns or pimps, is hard to say, says FEMEN’s Theresa. Poor bastards, they obviously aren’t. “The cars that park there cost upwards of 80,000 euros.”

The FEMEN protest is also aimed at the politicians, who are currently looking at a reform of the prostitution law. Their aims don’t go far enough for FEMEN. “It’s not enough for us that only the customers of forced prostitutes get punished, that’s just eyewash,” says Theresa. Because “whether a woman prostitutes because she’s forced to or not, can hardly be verified in practice.”

FEMEN, who are among the 90 first signatories of the EMMA appeal against prostitution, demand the Nordic model for Germany: Punishment for all johns.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

So we can see that sex capitalism, to call so-called “sex work” by its right name, is a very unequal proposition. The “workers” don’t get the perks that the pricey-car “clients” do. For the women, everything is extra. You have to pay extortionate daily room rates just for the “privilege” of working there. Prostitution is neither a charity, nor a social-welfare agency. The German megabordellos are not only unglamorous as a lifestyle choice, they are a shitty way to make a living. And it’s hard to imagine any German woman with a full slate of choices actually wanting to work in one.

And indeed, as I’ve blogged here before, most of the hundred-thousands of women (and girls) in German megabordellos are NOT Germans, nor do they have a whole lot to choose from. Most are imported from the poorest parts of Eastern Europe, often under dodgy circumstances. It’s hard to say exactly how many are slave trafficking victims, since only a police raid can uncover the truth, and the ladies are often coached to smile and say they’re making good money, they want to be there, blah blah. The traffickers have trained them extremely well, and if one of them makes trouble, she’s out, to face an even rougher (and often painfully short) life on the streets.

And since a lot of these women are supporting jobless relatives back home, the pressure to behave properly is overwhelming. It’s seldom, if ever, that a prostitute from a perfectly legal German bordello will drop the hammer on her exploiters. It’s not just her life and livelihood, but that of her entire family back home (who often live under menaces from organized crime) that’s at stake.

The legalization of bordellos in Germany has only made the traffickers’ job easier. Not that of the prostitutes. Never that of the women. Their work is as hard and awful as ever. They have to put up with every kind of shit that the johns see fit to dish out, and contrary to all “libertarian” arguments about “sex workers’ rights”, they have no right of refusal. If you work in a German brothel, you’ve essentially signed away your right to say no to things you don’t want to do. You have to serve all comers, and you have to do it their way. If a “client” wants to have anal sex without a condom, no one in the brothel’s management is going to stop him. It’s not the woman’s “wellness” that matters, after all. She’s only paying for the room…and as long as that money keeps rolling, and fresh women keep getting trafficked in from Romania, Bulgaria, etc. — who the hell cares?

And all this for a flat rate, too. After all, those costs to the john are low for a reason…

This is what’s now at issue in the German parliament: Does Germany want to go on being “Europe’s megabrothel”, attracting criminal elements, sleaze and misery from all over the world, along with the big money? Or does the country want to actually do something for these women beyond lip service — and not just collect taxes from them, like a good state pimp?

Slaughterhouse-Five: A Remembrance Day story

Join me for a moment of getting-unstuck-in-time, won’t you?

That was Kurt Vonnegut, reading one of the weirdest and loveliest passages in all of his work: Billy Pilgrim’s time-slip in Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy is waiting for the flying saucer to take him to Tralfamadore, and a late-night war movie on TV joggles his own traumatic memories of having been a soldier in that same god-awful carnage. Since it’s all too terrible for a mentally fragile man to bear, Billy’s mental illness — or strange talent — makes the movie run backwards, so that death and destruction get reversed and undone.

Billy Pilgrim is like Vonnegut himself, who also fought in World War II, and in that same novel, Vonnegut talks about his own experiences as a prisoner of war in the basement of a German slaughterhouse during the Allied firebombing of Dresden:

He was down in the meat locker on the night that Dresden was destroyed. There were sounds like giant footsteps above. Those were sticks of high-explosive bombs. The giants walked and walked. The meat locker was a very safe shelter. All that happened down there was an occasional shower of calcimine. The Americans and four of their guards and a few dressed carcasses were down there, and nobody else. The rest of the guards had, before the raid began, gone to the comforts of their own homes in Dresden. They were all being killed with their families.

So it goes.

Sorry, that was Billy Pilgrim again. Or rather, Billy Pilgrim as fictional surrogate for Vonnegut himself. Substitute “he” for “I”, and you get just how non-fictional the novel is. How ironic is that — a novel which is actually non-fiction at heart?

The whole thing is layer upon layer of irony, since Vonnegut is himself of German descent. His surname is actually a bastardization of Funnegut, since his family had an estate — ein Gut — on the river Funne, way back. Since the ignorant Yanks, who haven’t even mastered their own language, would only pronounce it “Funnyguts”, or something dumb like that, it got changed to Vonnegut when they immigrated. So there’s one irony: a German-American sitting among Americans taken prisoner by Germans. Other layers: They are forced to work in a slaughterhouse, making vitamin syrup for pregnant women. This saves their lives when their own allies come to bomb the city, which has no military significance. They firebomb it just as a pure show of force, to say “this is what we’ll do again, and worse, if you don’t surrender”. The prisoners are locked in the basement meat-locker of the slaughterhouse, while the “free” Germans overhead are getting fried up like so much human Schnitzel. They are among the very few to survive the firebombing of Dresden, whose main industry was fine porcelain (insert bull/china-shop joke here). They have the privilege of sitting in terror and darkness, with puffs of plaster dust raining down on their heads, listening to death as it happens.

An experience like that is bound to be scarifying, and for Vonnegut it was. Slaughterhouse-Five alone took him 25 years to be able to write, and when he did, it had to be executed as a slapstick sci-fi comedy; to write it as a straight-up memoir was impossible because the pain was too deep to fathom. About a decade after Slaughterhouse-Five was published, Vonnegut attempted suicide; the unsuccessful attempt formed the basis of another novel, Deadeye Dick.

There isn’t much doubt in my mind that Vonnegut, like Billy Pilgrim and the soldiers of the Vietnam war, was suffering from PTSD. Back in World War II it wasn’t called that, but “combat fatigue”, as if it were just something you had to sleep off, like an alcohol bender. In the Great War, it was called “shell shock”, as though it were some momentary annoyance you could shake off and be right as rain in five minutes. Military hospitals looked in vain for ways to make just that happen, to make soldiers mentally whole again so they could get briskly back to the business of killing and being killed.

They never found it. And they never will, although I wouldn’t doubt that they’re still trying. As long as there are fortunes somewhere to be plundered, there will be more wars.

And that may be why Slaughterhouse-Five came out when it did. Vonnegut makes no bones about it being an anti-war novel. A contemporary (“Harrison Starr, the movie-maker”) told him he might as well write an anti-glacier novel. Of course, that contention rests on the fallacy that wars, like glaciers, are just natural phenomena, and therefore pointless to oppose. Which begs the question: What is so fucking natural about THIS?

Black flak and nightmare fighters don’t exist in nature, and neither does the purpose they purport to serve. By the way, Randall Jarrell, the war veteran who wrote and read the anti-war poem above, also attempted suicide decades later…and succeeded.

And if we go on glorifying war, which is to say erasing and forgetting the very real human toll of it in favor of lip service to its veterans, we might as well just tell them all to go fucking die.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the German Greens’ pedophile problem

cohn-bendit-perv

“I stand for sex with children! How about you?”

Meet Daniel Cohn-Bendit. He’s a long-standing, high-ranking member of the German Green Party, as well as the Green faction chief in the Europarliament. And he’s also a major component of its Achilles’ heel: the pedophile contingent, which during the 1970s and ’80s was active in trying to wipe out two paragraphs of German criminal law, specifically those dealing with “sex” between adults and children. You’ll notice I put the word in quotation marks. There’s a good reason for that. You’ll see it soon enough, if you don’t already. Meanwhile, let’s talk a bit more about Herr Cohn-Bendit and the ever-spreading toxic stain he is.

For the past week or so there’s been hard talk about bombing Syria. Bashar al-Assad stands accused of using sarin gas on his own people. Evidence now points to the so-called Syrian rebels, who have al-Qaida ties and are financed and armed by the Saudis and the US. They are a most unsavory bunch. But since Bashar is the designated scapegoat in certain pro-war circles, that’s all been swept under the rug. And in a twist of very strange irony, one of those sweepers is Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who gave an interview to Der Spiegel in which he too beats the war drums, and rails against the “cheap anti-Americanism” of those opposed. It’s not the first time he’s done so, either; right there in the first lines of the interview, Cohn-Bendit shows himself to be the greenest warhawk in Germany:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You were the first Green to call for western military action in the Yugoslavian war [over Kosovo]. Now the Syrian dictator, Assad, has very probably used chemical weapons against his own people. Can the west take that without a military response?

Cohn-Bendit: Assad has overstepped a symbolic boundary. That has to be avenged. But the reaction of the west must be embedded in a political strategy.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are you against a punitive action that shows Assad that he has overstepped a red line?

Cohn-Bendit: A punitive action without political strategy would be wrong. But the west has to mobilize militarily. As a prerequisite — either for a military strike or to force a cease-fire and end the bloodshed.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Should Germany also take part in that militarily?

Cohn-Bendit: Yes, the federal government should participate in preparation for a military action with other EU countries.

Translation mine.

I find his phraseology extremely interesting: “overstepped a symbolic boundary”. They accuse Assad of genocide without concrete proof (and the hard evidence, embarrassingly, points the other way), so of course the boundary is merely “symbolic”. Meanwhile, in his own past, Daniel Cohn-Bendit repeatedly overstepped a very real boundary, and remains unpunished for it to this day.

“When a little girl of five or five and a half years old starts to undress you, that’s fantastic. It’s fantastic because it’s a game, an absolutely erotic-manic game.”

With this sentence on a French talk show in 1982, Daniel Cohn-Bendit wanted to provoke the public, in order to stand in the light he regarded so highly, that of the taboo-breaker. He didn’t quite succeed. None of the other guests in the program reacted with any recognizable upset, no one wanted to rein in the chubby-cheeked thug. Even in the press you never read any critical commentaries afterward. The public reacted quite similarly seven years before on the stunning, meanwhile famous-infamous passages from Cohn-Bendit’s “Le Grand Bazar” — not at all.

And why? Among French intellectuals, calls for punishment-free sex with children and adolescents fell on fertile ground. It was “another time”, as Le Monde wrote, somewhat shamefacedly, years later. Eve this reputable paper gave considerable leeway in the 1970s to the pedophilic circles, while the left-republican Libération attested to a “genuine social mission” in sex with children, as historian Anne-Claude Ambroise-Rendu noted in retrospect.

When, in January 1977, three men were facing trial over charges of sexual crimes against 13- and 14-year old children, various intellectuals, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Louis Aragon, Catherine Millet, André Glucksmann, Jack Lang, and Sarkozy’s future foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, declared solidarity with them. That was just “the times”, and thus, Cohn-Bendit too is trying to exculpate his then declarations: “The sexual debate knew nothing of sexual abuse.” The sexual-freedom impetus sailed in the years after 1968 in the lee of disappointment over the missing political revolution. So the prophets of fundamental change settled on self-reform, on pedagogy, on the emancipation of individuals from the pressures of a bygone, clerical and bigotry-soured class society. That was the jargon of the day. As always in times of deep political disappointment, the hopes fell on the not-yet-corrupted mindset of youth, now even that of children. Pedophilic affection advanced in the ferment of everyday upheaval, coexistence, and liberating love. So it was in France. Thus they experienced it, most particularly, in the Netherlands. And thus did a part of the German “New Left” also develop.

Translation mine.

Here’s the interview (not embeddable, sorry), in French with German subtitles, where Cohn-Bendit raves to his host, Paul Guth, about sex with children. He sounds pretty stoned, which stands to reason; he also brags that he ate hash brownies a short time before he went on air. (The Greens were also in favor of legalizing soft drugs.) Apparently the dope not only loosened his tongue, it got him to proudly reveal things most people would keep a deathly silence about, even if they were not personally ashamed of having done them. That is, most people who’ve actually perpetrated child sexual abuse. Not he! He seems to revel in having done not only that, but in bragging about it.

But here’s the thing: This man truly doesn’t see that what he did there WAS abuse, just because no physical force was involved. His definition of what’s abusive is remarkably narrow, and takes no account of what happens years down the line, when sexually abused children become emotionally disturbed adults. So convinced is he that what he did was not wrong that he even tried to get the laws against it struck off the books in the name of the Sexual Revolution.

And for a while there, it looked as if Germany might go his way. Alice Schwarzer, editor-in-chief and publisher of EMMA, Germany’s leading feminist magazine, knows the dark side of Daniel Cohn-Bendit all too well. She has been watching him and his ilk for decades now, presciently warning of the dangers of their plans, and she recounts:

It was the Greens who, at their second party congress in 1980, were already debating the striking-down of Paragraph 176, which levied punishment for sex with children under 14 years of age, as well as that of Paragraph 174, against sexual abuse of minor wards of the state.

[...]

On the basis of §176, which punished child sexual abuse with up to 10 years’ imprisonment, according to Der Spiegel, some 20-25,000 perpetrators a year were sentenced. Considering that this is just the tip of the iceberg — because most child victims are too confused, intimidated or dependent to fight back — then you get an idea of the magnitude of the crime.

Even non-pedophilic men — that is, those whose desire is not compulsively fixated on prepubescent children — were already frequenting the “kiddie stroll” of Zoo Station [in Berlin], or flying to Thailand or Mexico, in order to buy children even more cheaply there. The women at home had become just too inconvenient — and the children were not so available anymore.

Translation mine.

I caught the tail end of those “revolutionary” but in fact counter-revolutionary times when I started reading grown-up German magazines around age 12 or so. I even read Christiane F.’s now famous “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo” (“We Children of Zoo Station”), a firsthand account of teenage prostitution and heroin addiction on the streets of West Berlin, published in two parts in the magazine Stern. (It was later republished in book form.) It was a harrowing read. A lot of the words were unfamiliar to me, but the meaning was clear enough. I was appalled that anyone would do such things to helpless children, especially girls not much older than I was. If I ever had to credit any cautionary tale with keeping me off drugs and out of trouble, that’s the one. (Amazingly, Christiane F. is still alive, and in 2008 she gave this interview at age 45. This despite a decades-long battle with addiction and HIV. She finally got off heroin in 1993, and she has a teenage son whom she credits with giving her the strength to do so. My hat is off to her; she is a survivor in the fullest sense of the word.)

The idea that anyone would want to normalize and legalize sex, and specifically commercialized sex, with children of any age, is appalling. The realization that more than one prominent German Green who did advocate for just that is still on the loose and sitting in the Europarliament? Disgusting. And the fact that this monster is squatting there, beating the drums for war against Syria? Well, let’s just say that even I don’t have a bad enough word for it in my extensive vocabulary. In no sense does Daniel Cohn-Bendit have any moral right to condemn other countries or their politicians. What he’s done in Germany, and to Germany, is bad enough without him dragging the country into yet another horrific war. And if the Greens care about being electable, they’d do well to jettison him…and all his fellow Old Greens who beat the drums for legalized pedophilia, back in “another time”.

A few random thoughts on women’s sexuality

laura-restrepo-quote

“Feminine psychology is at times twisted: They have created in us the conviction that all the bad things in the world are lying in wait, trying to sneak in on us from between our legs.”

–Laura Restrepo, Colombian writer.

Lupita Domínguez sent me that quote this morning, so muchas gracias, hermana. She also asked what I think of it, and since I realized my reply would probably be too long for Facebook, here it is:

I have a hunch Laura Restrepo is being a bit sarcastic and mocking here, and she’s quite right. Not all the bad things in the world are trying to get into us ladies from between the legs. Some of them are trying to get into us via our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, hands, and hearts. Some are trying to get into us via our wallets. Some are trying to get into us via the media and the Internet. Some are trying to get into us via bad, simplistic books expounding all kinds of inane theories. There are a great many ways for trouble to find us, and sex is just one. So to reduce all female psychology to “what lies between the legs” is insulting and belittling, to say the least. We are more than just a vagina and a pair of breasts, and so is what’s on our minds.

Of course, there are guys out there who think we should be reduced in this fashion, and the more so, the better. They think our minds don’t matter, and that we should quit worrying about what we put into them, and turn them strictly to catering to Teh Menz. They’re calling themselves Men’s Rights Activists — oh, pardon me, Men’s Human Rights Activists, now. As though men have not been the only ones fully recognized as human throughout, oh, only all of human history. And their “human rights” activism seems to be take the form of things like this:

mra-activism

Yup, Man of the Year material right there.

I think what this guy’s really trying to say here is “You’re not supposed to like books, and you’re not supposed to write them, you’re just supposed to be a convenient hole for me to plug into. I’m the one who’s supposed to like books! I’m the one who’s supposed to write them! How dare you usurp my privileges!”

Reductio ad absurdum, anyone?

And then there’s Miley Cyrus’s performance from the other night. Those who say critics are only “slut-shaming” her are missing the point. What she did there was not so much expressing her own sexuality, but rather faithfully enacting a cartoonish exaggeration of what men assume women’s sexuality to be: a submissive pose, wiggling a tiny heinie, ever ready to be penetrated by all comers. Again, reductio ad absurdum. Plus a creepy Pedobear-ish costume, which at some point gets removed to reveal what is NOT real skin, but rubbery plastic with no nipples, no labia, no pubic hair — in short, nothing that actual women have. “Female Sexuality” à la Barbie. And this weirdly puerile sex show is supposed to be Miley’s signal that she’s a woman now? Whoopdefuckingdoo!

Of course, I might be missing some element of irony here. If she was actually sending up this whole cartoonish image of what female sexuality is supposed to be, according to men, media and porn, then I may have to rethink Miley altogether, and give her some credit for being a wry social commentator, and not just a performer making bank at a pretty damn douchey gig. That wagging tongue ought to have been planted firmly in cheek, rather than hanging out for all the world to gawp at like Gene Simmons’s ugly appendage. But I don’t think this was actually the case, more’s the pity. It could have been a great performance if there had only been some indication that this was a joke on rape culture, and that nobody is really like this, or should be. But there was no punchline. Instead, it was meant to be taken exactly for what it appeared to be: a young woman casting aside “girlhood” (symbolized by teddy bears) and embracing “womanhood” (symbolized by fake nudity, submissive pose, and grinding her ass on a fully-clothed, and very sleazy, Robin Thicke.)

It all reconfirms everything Laura Restrepo was saying: Everything seems to be waiting to crawl in on us through our vaginas. We are limited to the roles they compel us to play: virgin, mother, whore. Nothing else about us exists. Miley isn’t expressing her own sexuality (she still has a long way to go in discovering that, since she’s just 20); she’s expressing how our culture sees all female sexuality, and by extension, all females. And the fact that she combined twerking with teddy bears (very icky teddy bears) seems to suggest that we are nothing but sex toys, and that our sexual objectification starts very young. Especially black women, who seem to get appropriated along with everything else when it comes to “empowered” upper-class white women’s ostensibly de-Disnified “sexuality”.

The fact that sexual evils aren’t the only ones besetting us is conveniently swept aside by the sexualized narrative. Most women are dealing with economic disadvantages tailored to gender lines. Every day, that deck gets stacked against us a bit further. We’re still only paid, on average, 70 cents to a man’s dollar, our clothes cost more than men’s, and we’re supposed to buy more of them to keep up with the Joneses. There’s even talk of charging women higher health insurance premiums in the States, “because they have breasts”. We’re facing sanctions against abortion that are more restrictive than what prevailed in Victorian times. And student loan debts are leaving young people, women especially, financially crippled before their careers even begin.

And good luck trying to dig your way out of the financial hole without resorting to stripping or prostitution; those are the two most lucrative professions for women, and you can bet the pimps are taking note; in Germany they and the state have conspired between them to make sure the women get it coming and going. Brothels charge low flat rates for all the sexual servicing a client demands, no limits. And women who work there are expected to fork over not only a heavy percentage of their direct earnings (supposedly, to defray the cost of living in such a dump), but taxes to the state as well. And since a lot of them come from the poorest parts of Eastern Europe and are supporting families, well…you can do the math. Poverty prostitution actually has its own word in German: Armutsprostitution. Most prostitutes in Germany are not Germans; they are not free-spirited Happy Hookers doing it for love of sex, either, but impoverished immigrants who have run out of options — and in many cases, are trafficked as well. Their problems began long before they started working in the sex trade; money, not sex, is the way the ills of the world have crept up on them. Worst of all, many of them don’t make it out alive, and any dreams they had of better lives and meaningful work in non-sex professions have been yanked out from under them.

It seems to be only a matter of time before all of us find that our wallets are the main conduit between us and a similar fate. Lupita, who sent me that quote, knows it already, since need drove a lot of her friends from the Mexican nightclubs into stripping and prostitution. When I translated her book, one thing that leapt out at me was how many of them were forced into it by their own families. They are paying for their children’s food and clothing, their siblings’ educations, and their mothers’ houses. And they have to do so by taking money from strange men for acts that are often undignified.

And the worst indignity of all is that they have to deal with this double standard every day, every night, and pretend that it’s normal, and that they like it. The client gets to keep his suit on; the woman gets naked, or very nearly so. The power imbalance could not be more obvious. And neither is the twisting of psychology that says, on the one hand, that women’s bodies are “dirty”…but which, on the other hand, expects us to use them, and not our minds, to make the only living we are allowed to make, and to pretend that we are merely “exploring our sexuality”. We’re not supposed to be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, scientists or politicians, ever; when we grow up, we’re supposed to be either wives or whores. Y punto.

Reductio doesn’t get more ad absurdum than that, does it?

A few random thoughts on Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning

So. THIS happened.

The soldier we all knew as Bradley Manning has officially come out as transgender, and will henceforth be known here as Chelsea, in accordance with her expressed wishes.

Of course, her coming-out has been greeted with the predictable shitstorm from the usual poo-flinging monkeys. I hold out little hope for Erick Fucking Erickson, or the other random trolls of the Internet. They will always believe that she is really “he”, and that “he” is “crazy”, a “fag”, and what have you. A massive bullshit projection on their own part, of course, and one that I don’t expect to see changing anytime soon. So, fuck them. They are lost, and they can stay there. I’m going to talk here, instead, about my fellow feminists and what we can and should do to support Chelsea at this time.

For the past several months I’ve seen some disturbing indications that one particular faction of radical feminists is simply bound and determined to get the whole issue of gender wrong. They insist that transgenderism must somehow be “heteronormative” because it can take a gay man and turn him — presto! — into a heterosexual woman. Or some such. The fact that there are plenty of trans people out there who are L, G or B as well as T just never occurs to them.

And when this inconvenient fact is pointed out, they brush that aside by claiming that trans lesbians, for example, are “really” straight men who are just exerting male privilege by trying to winkle their way into women-only safe spaces (and the pants of “womyn born womyn”, as they call cisgendered women, by extension.) As for straight trans men, they are “traitors” to the lesbian community and seekers of male privilege, and therefore, also class enemies and oppressors of women. (I have no idea what they make of bisexual transfolk. Too confusing to tackle, maybe?)

The fact that a MTF trans woman gives up male privilege by coming out as trans, and that a FTM trans man does not qualify as a “real man” in the eyes of most penis-bearers-from birth, also does not register with them. Neither does the shockingly high hate crime rate against trans people. The murder of a trans person is a hate crime, and should be treated no differently, from a legal standpoint, than the murder of a woman by misogynists, or a gay guy by gay-bashers, or a black person by racist whites. Why should trans people be exempt from hate-crime protections, and even just basic human respect, simply because they don’t conform to society’s (and, ironically, certain radfems’) outmoded ideology of gender?

And yes, it is an outmoded ideology. More and more, science is coming out in support of the transfolk. It turns out that intersexed people who might voluntarily identify as one sex while still retaining characteristics of the other (or choose not to identify as either), are more common than we think. Add to them all the other gender-identity variants out there on the genetic and biological spectrum, and we get a sizable continuum of people who simply don’t fit that old Procrustean bed, and shouldn’t be made to. If we stuck to the “sex, not gender” paradigm espoused by religious conservatives (and, ironically, some radfems), those people would be abominations, or class enemies, instead of simply what they are: PEOPLE.

Of course, I fully expect that someone will accuse me of not “getting” radfem anti-gender ideology, which is supposedly opposed to chopping people’s bodies up to make them fit an assigned (and “socially constructed”) gender identity. Don’t worry, I get it just fine; I just happen to find it nonsensical, and I am done with it. Fuck ideology; this is a matter of human rights. While other feminists busy themselves worrying about the “mutilated bodies” of transsexuals, and fretting about how “heteronormative” they supposedly are, I respect them being able to make up their own minds, and support their right to live according to that choice. Nobody is MAKING them transition! I respect their lived experiences. I accept trans women as women, period — and conversely, trans men as men. I prefer to advocate for nonjudgmental counselling and safe, medically proven, publicly funded transitions, for those who wish them. I will refer to the transfolk by their chosen names and pronouns. (I will also put in a word for the singular “they”, which I like because it is so inclusive and non-specific, while still being an established usage of surprisingly long lineage.) I also choose to respect the fact that gender does exist, that it is in fact biologically based and not just socially constructed, and that it needs to be held distinct from gender roles, which ARE socially constructed (and massively unfair to women, as well as LGBTs and intersex, genderqueer and questioning people.)

The realization that so many of my radical feminist friends don’t seem willing to grasp these rather obvious things, distresses me and alienates me from that sector of the movement. I’ve avoided confronting them personally about this for the most part, as round-and-round arguments give me a whanging headache and eat up so much energy that could be put to better uses.

I want no part of the War Against Gender, which is an obviously losing battle being fought with weapons forged by fundamentalists, not radicals. If others want to cling to theories that have no consonance with the real world, fine. But not me, thanks. No using the master’s fundie tools to destroy the master’s fundie house. That means: I will not exclude, misgender, bully, concern-troll, gender-police, or snark on trans people. I have seen fellow feminists do all those things, which are shocking, shameful and unworthy. At times like that, I can’t tell them from the flying monkey rightard poo-flingers.

This is why I am coming out…as an ally, not a separatist.

And I will support Chelsea Manning just as she is, no matter what. Right now, she needs all the support she can get — and if not from other women, then where? And if we don’t respect her decisions regarding her gender, then who will? And who will respect our decisions regarding our own bodies, if we cannot respect those of another woman?

Compare and Contrast: Dissident vs. “dissident”

snowden-vs-yoani

“Both denounced their country. Guess which one can go home?

“Edward Snowden: Forced to seek exile in various countries for denouncing crimes of espionage committed by the US (his country).

“Yoani Sánchez: Travels all over the world ‘denouncing’ Cuba. Comes and goes as she pleases.

” ‘When we have eliminated the Communist threat, the normal order of things will return.’ — Adolf Hitler”

I should also add that this picture is spy vs. spy…or rather, former spy vs. current one. Yoani Sánchez works for the CIA.