German women take on brothel ads

brothel-ad

Karina Alteweier, a physician assistant in Leverkusen, Germany, points out an example of the kind of advertising she’s fighting in her city. Right next to it, a children’s musical is advertised. The brothel’s name, address, and other details are blocked out, but you can see that a day pass to enter the premises costs 55 euros. That’s dirt cheap, considering what it costs the women and girls who are typically imported from Eastern Europe to service those places (because there are not many German women who would freely contemplate such a job). EMMA interviewed Karina about what she does when she sees such ads…which, by the way, are illegal according to the local vice code.

EMMA: Frau Alteweier, you’ve been fighting for years against brothel advertising in your city. You’ve even gone to the complaint department of the mayor’s office.

KA: Exactly. I informed them there that according to Paragraphs 119 and 120 of the vice code, advertising for brothels is not allowed.

EMMA: How did you get involved against brothel advertising?

KA: One morning in 2011, on my way to work, I saw a huge billboard for the megabrothel “Pascha”, in Köln. My head exploded. I can’t accept that prostitution gets advertised as if it were ice cream — as if it were the most normal thing in the world. For me, as a woman, that’s discriminatory. And what image of women does that give our young people? I’m the mother of a 21-year-old son, and it’s horrific for me to imagine him going to a bordello. When I asked him about it, he got mad and said, “Mama, how can you think such a thing?”

And moreover, what effect must such an ad have on the victims of sexual abuse? For a woman who was abused as a child or a teenager, it must be like a slap in the face to see the sexual availability of women being advertised so casually.

EMMA: What did you do?

KA: I complained everywhere. I even called the police. There, they were very cranky and downright rude. And at the company that rents the ad space, an employee waved me off: “What’s the matter with you, that’s a chic photo!” So I went to the city offices, where there’s always an open ear for me. I also turned to the press. They reported it in a big, critical way. Some of the ads also hung along a school route, and mothers protested against that as well. Then the ads disappeared.

EMMA: The Pascha ads haven’t appeared again since then. But now there’s a megabrothel in Erkrath advertising for some time with the headline “100 Girls”.

KA: It all started with small flyers pasted up on bridges. I also complained about that to the city. So then the city put up signs in various places: “No advertising!” Meanwhile, this brothel has been putting up huge billboards. I counted them. Here in Leverkusen alone, there are at least ten. So then I called the city offices and had those ads taken down too, but it took three weeks. So my complaints have almost always had results.

EMMA: But that’s not enough for you.

KA: No. I don’t want to have to complain again and again every time there’s an ad. I want the city to make clear that it won’t tolerate any brothel advertising, and that ad space must not be rented to brothels in the first place. For that reason, on May 11, I wrote another letter of complaint to the city and asked to make use of my right to speak to the complaint department.

EMMA: How did the department react?

KA: Before the session, they sent me back a letter saying that there is a “changed understanding on the part of the public regarding prostitution”, and that one would have to deal with the advertising on a “case by case” basis. For instance, one would have to see if there were hints of “forced” prostitution, or “prostitution of minors”. As if they would write that on their billboards! Also, there are other cities, like for example Bremen, that don’t allow any brothel advertising at all.

EMMA: How did the complaint department respond to that?

KA: I told them again that advertising for prostitution is illegal, and then read them the corresponding paragraphs. I also told them that I know many people in my area who are not at all tolerant of prostitution, and don’t find this brothel advertising acceptable at all. But some of the department members didn’t listen to me at all, and just talked amongst themselves. They didn’t want to discuss it, either. After my presentation, they decided to keep things as they were. Luckily, a lady from the press was sitting next to me. She was disgusted at their ignorance and offered to write an article about this consultation.

EMMA: Meanwhile, you have the support of equality commissioner Sabine Rusch-Witthorn.

KA: She accompanied me to the sitting at my request, and plans to keep going with the topic.

EMMA: You too?

KA: Naturally! I have so much support. My chief physician and my colleagues all share my opinion completely. Whenever they read an article on the matter in the paper, they say: “You’re completely right, we see it that way too!” And there are always lots of supportive letters from the readers. That affirms and encourages me, naturally. I’m sticking with it; I can’t do otherwise. Every time I see such an ad, my motor starts running again.

Translation mine.

Karina’s battle is uphill, and little wonder: Germany’s bordellos bring in billions of euros a year in gross revenue. There are nearly half a million women in prostitution there, most of them foreigners. It’s a vicious circle: Legalization creates normalization; normalization creates demand; demand spurs traffickers to increase the supply of prostituted persons from out of country; more supply, more normalization; more normalization, more money!

And as long as the brothel operators pay their taxes and the police don’t get too many calls about violence on the premises (even though it happens, and far more often than is mentioned in the media), the city authorities don’t much care what goes on in there. It takes nothing less than the most flagrant human rights abuses, disease outbreaks, and accusations of human trafficking that stick before a bordello gets shuttered. The money apparently matters more than the well-being of the girls, who are typically under 20 and speak little German (or English) beyond what it takes to reel off a price list and negotiate a transaction. It’s a situation where abuse isn’t a glitch, it’s a feature.

And if you think it’s any safer in brothels than it is on the street, read Rebecca Mott’s interview here and find out why pro-prostitution campaigners are so eager to push the “indoors = harm reduction” meme. You’ll see it has a lot less to do with prostituted people’s safety than it does with lack of accountability, and the abusers’ and exploiters’ ability to get away with everything (up to and including murder). Off the street is out of sight, and out of sight is out of mind…or so the pimp lobby reckons.

Of course, as brazen as they are, they reckoned without the likes of Karina and her colleagues, who aren’t fooled by all this defensive, dismissive talk of a “changed morality” in Germany. It’s a bald-faced lie that all German women support prostitution, seeing it as an “escape valve” for “dangerous impulses” that would otherwise lead to rape. Rape is still happening, and in fact is more rampant than ever; unprostituted women are now afraid to walk through red-light districts because drunken brothel patrons often accost them on the street! (Normalization creates demand, remember?)

It’s also a lie that the country is better and happier since prostitution was legalized in 2001. It might be richer in some small parts, thanks to horny foreigners on sex tours, but that’s not an improvement! The wealth is not trickling down. Most prostitutes are desperately poor when they enter, and no better off when they exit. Women are still being assaulted, abused and murdered, and many of them are in prostitution when it happens. The closed doors of the brothel conceal a multitude of crimes against humanity. And the spillover from that reaches onto the streets, too…where prostitution hasn’t exactly abated, either.

These activists, however, know their local laws and are disgusted with the blatant abuses going on under their noses. And they will not stop opposing the pimps’ efforts to turn a profit at everyone else’s expense. Even those with no children to worry about can figure out for themselves what it must feel like to someone who was sexually abused at an early age to see acts similar to those committed against her being “legally” advertised for sale…on a billboard, a wall, or a city bus. To such individuals, the city authorities’ reluctance to step in and stop it must feel like a whole fresh round of abuse.

A few random thoughts about race and gender (and religion, guns and terrorism)

whoever-fights-monsters

Ahem. For the past week or so, my mind’s been getting messed with by people who are idiots when it comes to race and gender. Not all of them the usual suspects of FUX Snooze, either. So I’ll beg your pardon pre-emptively if I ramble or explode along the way.

Where to begin?

Well, I’ve unfriended some Facebook friends, and been unfriended too — and all of these ex-friends and un-friends had one thing in common: They staunchly refuse to get a grasp on what gender actually means. They claim it’s a binary (actually, it’s a spectrum), and are trying to erase it and replace it with an actual binary called, merely, SEX. Only two options available: Male and Female, assigned at birth, immutable. Intersex people, if acknowledged at all, are only grudgingly done so (mostly as “rare exceptions” — awful white of you, sisters.) They thus stubbornly refuse to accept trans women as women. They even believe, absurdly, that trans women are part of some Men’s Rights plot to infiltrate and eliminate all women’s spaces with the wave of a willy. Uh, no. Actual MRAs, like themselves, are all “ewwww, trannies ICKY!” Ironic, no? They claim to stand up for the most oppressed, but actually, they are the meanest kids on the feminist playground when it comes to women who get killed for being trans as well as women, and they are perversely proud of that.

Several of my friends have been viciously purged, too. All for the same reason. And yet, these women call themselves radical feminists. The most sisterly of the whole feminist sisterhood! Whoopee!

What could be so radical, or so feminist, about excluding an entire category of women from consideration AS WOMEN, simply by falling back on the (false) binary sex assigned to those women at birth, I do not know. I do know that they are incredibly hostile to even the slightest challenge to their simplistic received wisdoms (which all seem to come from some very outdated and elaborately stupid books of theory) and that their skins are so thin that the merest poke of intruding reality makes them explode.

They’re also downright snarky about trans women’s allegedly “fake” gender (which is actually their real one, coming out from behind a lifelong wall of the very toxic masculinity that self-styled radfems ironically claim to be trying to dismantle). And snotty as hell about “women’s lived experiences” (completely ignoring the actual lived experiences of a woman who has been forced by society to occupy the body and mannerisms of a man). Apparently, you’re not a real woman to them unless you were born with the full standard set of female parts — because, in their rigid, sex-essentialistic binary view of things, only those girls born with proper girly bits have the requisite “female energy”.

Oddly, these same “radicals” glorify good ol’ apple-pie motherhood as one of those “lived experiences”, chock-full of “female energy” that all “real” women allegedly share. Which is ironic coming from them, after all the decades feminists have spent campaigning for birth control, body autonomy, abortion rights, and the right to forego motherhood altogether if one so chooses. (Guess I’m a fake woman for going on the Pill, and later having my tubes tied, and choosing to be the mother of nothing except maybe creativity and cats. Thanks so much for all that validation of my lived experiences, sisters.)

Most ironic of all, they’re vying so hard to be lefter-than-left and feminister-than-feminist that they’ve somehow come out on the far right. They’re so transphobic — oh sorry, “gender-critical” — that they actually get their “scientific information” about trans women from Lifesite, one of the most unscientific, anti-woman sites there is. Some are so scared of people taking hormones for therapeutic purposes (ahem, irregular periods here) that they’re even now campaigning against the Pill, and again relying on odious anti-choice sites from the Religious Reich (which are full of outdated and false information) to make their “scientific” case for them. Incidentally, a lot of tinfoil-hatted MRAs share their pharmacophobia (because drugs are “emasculating”, natch!) with this particular brand of “feminist”. Ironies, like bigotries, tend to cluster!

I’ve lost count of the number of far-right articles and websites I’ve seen them toss at others in their desperation to beat back real, radical social change. In addition to the Religious Reich misogyny of Lifesite, there was Alex Jones’s Infowars, which hurls shit at feminists every chance its flying-monkey crew get. I’ve even seen VDare — a notorious white-supremacist siteused to back up their transphobia. (I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked, in retrospect; this same bunch of so-called radical feminists also bristled against the phrase “white feminism”, which was coined to make clear that we’ve still got a long way to go on matters of racial equality, justice, and liberation from all manner of racism. Now why would they not welcome a reminder of THAT?)

In short, these former friends won’t be missed, at least from where I sit. On the contrary, my Facebook feed smells fresher without their ideological dungheaps on it.

What really clinched the decision to unfriend, for me, was a spate of ideological diarrhea which takes a remarkably similar line about race, trying (and failing) to tie it in to the gender mess somehow. And all of it was prompted by the outing of Rachel Dolezal, the white professor and former Spokane NAACP leader who claimed to be black. This was followed by a lot of smug “gotcha” spitballing about how, if racial identity could not be faked, then why wasn’t that also true of gender? Why wasn’t anyone screaming about Caitlyn — oh sorry, “Bruce” Jenner having the temerity to pass “himself” off as a woman? (Coming from people who pooh-pooh all talk of intersectionality, this issue-mixing is downright rich.)

Of course, as usual, they own-goaled themselves. While they were all so busy chasing their tails around their own little misguided interpretations of gender (and, no doubt, batting away all well-earned charges of their own unexamined racism), they completely ignored what any genuine radical feminist, white or otherwise, should be aware of in the Dolezal case: the fact that Rachel Dolezal’s white biological parents were also religious home-schoolers of a strict (and horribly abusive) kind. That her own biological brother was a molester and a racist, and no doubt protected, much like the notoriously transphobic Josh Duggar, by those same abusive parents. The same who later piped up just to out Rachel as fake-black when some hate mail she allegedly received was being investigated by the authorities. Not to excuse any of the wrong (and possibly illegal) things she has done, but let me just say this: If those were my parents, I’d be tripping all over myself to get them the hell out of my life, too. So yeah, I’m not a bit surprised that Rachel Dolezal tried to disown them in the most radical way she could think of (and indeed, in a radical way most of us would NEVER think of): by trying to pass as a person of another color.

And neither am I surprised that the awfully white “radfems” of my acquaintance again missed the point, and sided with what really are all of feminism’s sworn enemies. By sniping at trans people’s cross-gender “passing” and taking cheap shots at “transracialism” (which is not a thing, much less one related to transgenderism), they pretty much convinced me that they are nobody’s friends. When your “gender-critical” viewpoint on trans people and abused women starts to smell just like the overt bigotries of ‘winger idiots like Keith Fucking Ablow and Michelle Fucking Duggar, or tinfoil hatters like Alex Fucking Jones, I don’t even want to be in the same room with you. You’re not a radical; you’re not a feminist; you’re not anywhere on the left anymore. Take off your false “radical feminist” identity, and fuck off. You may as well cop to being a far-right woman-hating racist, because that is the group you have joined forces with.

And if that is your ideology, then maybe you should heartily approve of what Dylann Storm Roof has done in Charleston. He invaded a historic black church. He shot blacks. He killed blacks. Most of them were women. And he did it because, to paraphrase what he himself said, black men rape white women. How killing black women is supposed to stop interracial rape, I don’t know. His imagination is a drug-addled pornographic fever swamp of antebellum southern racism. No doubt he was hoping for some kind of “racial holy war” to break out in the wake of his terrorist deed, and for more gun-toting whites to go on more anti-black purges. He has three Confederate flags on his South Carolina licence plate, and two flags from colonial, white-rule Southern Africa on his jacket. (I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if his browser history, like that of my so-called radfem acquaintances, shows a lot of visits to Christian right and white supremacist sites. Politics, strange bedfellows, etc.!)

And if you don’t want to endorse his actions, you might do well to sit down, wake up, knock off the defensive jibber-jabber, stop looking to far-right extremism for your justifications, and finally face all the oppressive -isms and -phobias you’ve internalized so very well. Have you forgotten that these systems were put there to keep women and non-white people in “their” place, which is squarely under the bootheels of white men? Have you forgotten that just like trans women are doing now, lesbians and black women have had to fight for inclusion as women and feminists, and that the movement is better for having them in it? Need I remind you, sisters, that it won’t lift ANY women up when you throw other women under that ol’ bus?

If the best you can do to back up your so-called radical feminism is to flail your arms and spout viewpoints identical to those of the most reactionary, racist, and antifeminist of all conservatives, you’re not just doing intersectionality wrong; you’re doing radicalism and feminism both wrong. And if you want to do it right, you need to fight that sexist, racist, transphobic bigot in yourself. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing a lot more than just a slew of friends who have, collectively, gotten sick of your shit.

Happy Juneteenth, BTW.

A few random thoughts on the Duggar scandal

duggars-persecution

Would you trust these people to teach YOU morality? If the answer is yes, you just might be a Pharisee.

So, this happened. Finally, after years of parading their nauseating Quiverfull sanctimony on the Internets and TV to the tune of big, BIG bucks, the Duggars are off the air. How come?

Well, it seems that their eldest son, Josh, was a very naughty boy. And a very hypocritical man, too, for years after the fact. And they themselves aided and abetted him by sweeping his abuse — much of it downright incestuous — under the rug. And by throwing his victims — their own daughters — under the bus.

So it’s kind of sweet to see them finally reaping a little bit of what they sowed. And no small relief to know that they’ve been denied at least one major media mouthpiece for their despicable views. I’m guessing that ol’ Jim Bob and Michelle might want to put off trying for Sprog #20 indefinitely now, seeing as their gravy train — or clown car, rather — has screeched to a sudden halt.

But hold your hosannas, folks, because there’s not much to cheer about here.

For starters: Josh Duggar never did any time for his crimes. The abuses in question all took place over a decade ago. For a dozen years or more, several girls have been carrying this heavy secret around, effectively covering for their abuser. They don’t dare speak out themselves, because that would call the entire Quiverfull movement (a cult, really) into question. Because its teachings are heavily to blame for both their molestation and its cover-up.

And then there’s the big question of how they were treated following the assaults. Did they get proper counselling and treatment for the traumas they endured? I don’t know, but somehow I doubt it. Did they get slut-shamed by the all-male cult “headship” for “tempting” him with their budding young bodies? I don’t know either, but I certainly wouldn’t doubt it. For a fertility cult, the Quiverfulls sure do rely a lot on female chastity. And they make sure it’s enforced through a strict, home-schooled “purity culture”, heavy on patriarchal dogma and light on useful knowledge. Their overall education is far from comprehensive (or accurate), so I’m guessing that their sexual education is at best sketchy. Knowledge is power, and the fact that the junior Duggars have been brought up on an unholy broth of ignorance and lies doesn’t bode well for their future autonomy. Unless, of course, they do what a growing number of the Phelps clan have done, and exit the family cult. (Run, Jinger, RUN!)

And then there’s the fact that Josh Duggar has actually done quite well for himself and his own Quiverfull brood in the interim, working for an infamous right-wing stink tank, the Family Research Council. He had to resign when this scandal finally grew beyond all hope of damage control, but the real damage he did while in their employ is still being felt by women and queerfolk. After all, those wingnuts he worked for helped keep Arkansas in the transphobic Dark Ages. And they did it by enlisting Josh’s mom, Michelle Duggar, to record a disgusting robocall about evil, wicked trans people out to rape everyone’s sweet, virginal daughters. It worked, too: Arkansas’s proposed anti-discrimination law didn’t pass.

Never mind that the biggest threat to women and girls is not the imaginary man-in-drag claiming to be a woman so he can break into bathrooms to sexually assault little girls, that “queer” variation on the hoary old theme of Stranger Danger. Never mind that actual cases of women or girls being assaulted by such individuals simply don’t exist. No, let’s all go on ignoring the real threat, that smirking dough-ball in a suit, who pushed crapaganda about phantom menaces while keeping his own very real sex crimes hidden in the old family closet.

Even some otherwise intelligent radical feminists have fallen for that lie, which is a testimony to the insidious power of the Duggars and their ilk. It’s also a testimony to the power of dogma and antiquated ideology. Here’s a pro tip, my rad-fem comrades: If you find your views on gender dovetailing inextricably with those of the Religious Reich, you’re not pushing for women’s liberation anymore. You’re pushing against it, and you don’t even know it.

And here’s another, just for good measure: Trans women are not “really men”, they are really WOMEN. And they’re being abused by the same people who are selling you those dirty lies about their gender. When a trans woman is forced to use the men’s room because she doesn’t “pass”, and she gets assaulted for it, that’s abuse. That’s on all of those who pushed to keep trans people’s rights unprotected. And if you joined in that push, congratulations: You’ve made common cause with the enemies of all women.

You want to liberate women from patriarchy? Great! Then recognize your trans sisters as women. Stop fretting over what’s between their legs. Learn their concerns; you’ll find that they mesh nicely with yours. Bigotries tend to cluster, so a unified front — that’s the real meaning of intersectionality — is needed to combat them. Don’t do the bigots’ work for them! Fight the patriarchy and its dogmas, not the trans women who are their victims.

And if you meet a trans woman in the public toilets, don’t panic. Remember, she’s there for the same reasons you are. You didn’t come to perpetrate a sexual assault? Good, because neither did she. Isn’t it a relief to know that she’s only there to relieve herself, same as you?

And if any man is lurking in the vicinity, waiting for victims, I doubt very much that he’d bother to dress in drag first. Unless, of course, his costume is that of the fine, upstanding family man who can do no wrong. That one fools the whole world, every single time.

Economics for Dummies: The African refugee situation, summed up

african-refugees

It’s not just boats that are sinking. It’s PEOPLE. The fact that so many Africans are fleeing from their homes and drowning off the coast of Italy makes me think that, just like the Haitians who are still being punished for their slave revolt 200 years later, so Africans are being punished for their efforts to throw off various colonial yokes that keep being foisted upon them. Once it was European countries doing the colonizing; now it’s multinational foreign corporations taking up where nation-states have left off. Resources that should belong to the people of the land are being plundered, and private armies of mercenaries are ensuring that no pesky locals get in the way of that. Result: people paying extortionate sums of money, and even going into debt, to traffickers who abandon ship as they near the Italian coast, leaving the refugees to sink or swim…and since most can’t swim, they drown.

If you want to know what will REALLY end the seemingly endless influx of boat-people from Africa, the first thing you will need to do is kill off capitalism. Then, kill imperialism. And while you’re at it, also kill racism. Then, and only then, will you have begun to create a climate where it’s safe for them to go back home again.

If they still have a home left to go to, that is.

Posted in Deepest Darkest Africa, Economics for Dummies, EuroPeons, Fascism Without Swastikas, Filthy Stinking Rich, If You REALLY Care, Isn't That Racist?. Comments Off on Economics for Dummies: The African refugee situation, summed up »

“In Tatjana’s Shoes”: German art students taken on prostitution, human trafficking

tatjana-shoes

“In Tatjana’s Shoes”, a street art exhibit by a group of students from Osnabrück, Germany. Photo: EMMA.

Human trafficking and prostitution are big topics in Germany right now. A law reform is on the table, but the real debate is happening on the streets. And a group of university students from northern Germany decided that the best way to show the impact of the two interconnected issues was to find the kind of shoes a woman or girl in the sex trade might have worn, and set them on the street with a “price tag” beside them. EMMA reports on the impact of this stark, simple exhibit:

An unusual scene recently appeared on the main shopping street in Osnabrück, Germany: An orderly rectangle filled with women’s and girls’ shoes. Each pair of shoes had a price sign next to it. By the pink pumps: “Tatjana, 16, blowjob, 15 euros”; by the purple high-heeled sandals: “Olessia, 17, anal, 65 euros”. And next to a pair of children’s shoes: “Newborn girl, 1000 euros.” The people behind the exhibit: a group of art students from Osnabrück University. They wanted their project to raise awareness of human rights abuses in prostitution. We asked them: How did you get this idea? How did people react? And what’s next? Here is their answer:

“We are a group of art students from Osnabrück University (four women, one man). We are between 21 and 25 years old. Last winter semester, we took a course on artistic interventions in public and semi-public spaces. The need to take on a political subject was important to us. At some point the topics of human trafficking and prostitution came up, since they moved us the most, shocked us, and we felt the need to share our bewilderment about them.

“We decided on the symbol of dirty, worn-out, but milieu-appropriate shoes. We also wanted to shock people with the hand-written cardboard signs. If you take the children’s shoes with the label ‘Newborn girl, 1000 euros” as an example of the reactions of passersby, then you could see, especially in women, shock, rage at the circumstances, bewilderment and disgust. ‘Really terrible to see children’s shoes in this context.’ Or, ‘The shoe sizes are crass!’ One could also see the passersby explaining the topic to one another. Some debated whether there was still forced prostitution…

“Lots of them turned the signs back over, if the wind had blown them down, in order to read them. Passersby bent down to get a better look at the shoes, read every sign systematically, circled around the rectangle, and shook their heads. A bunch of boys knocked a pair of shoes over and read the signs to each other in broken German. Others set the shoes back up. Some stepped into the middle of the rectangle to get a good look even at the shoes there, and be able to touch them.

“Sometimes people talked to us about the project, and asked how we’d come up with it. Whether it was real stories that we were showing, and what moves us personally the most about it. Many of them also told us that they needed more explanation. Others were of the opinion that it all spoke for itself.

“This was our first exhibit in the area. We’re still feeling our way around, and hadn’t expected that our début would make such big waves. We are all anchored in different areas of art. Until now, we have preferred analog photography and painting. That’s why such projects and interventions are a bit of new territory for us. We plan to show the exhibit again, in other cities.”

Translation mine.

More photos at the link.

Posted in Artsy-Fartsy Culture Stuff, Confessions of a Bad German, If You REALLY Care, Law-Law Land, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on “In Tatjana’s Shoes”: German art students taken on prostitution, human trafficking »

Compare and Contrast: A “tragedy” vs. a statistic

misandry-vs-misogyny

Note the quotes around “tragedy”; they’re there for a reason. Partly because this mug is a joke. Partly also because a few arrogant dudes’ hurt feelings on the internet don’t add up to nearly as much as 90 million girls’ corpses.

Posted in Compare and Contrast, If You REALLY Care, Isn't It Ironic?, Men Who Just Don't Get It, The "Well, DUH!" Files, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on Compare and Contrast: A “tragedy” vs. a statistic »

Swiss psychiatrist makes the case for more female pilots

pilotinnen

Female pilots of Lufthansa, photographed for the airline by Rolf Bewersdorf. Why aren’t there more of them? According to an article in Schweiz am Sonntag (via EMMA), there should be more women pilots, because they are actually the more trustworthy sex. And more to the point, according to a leading Swiss expert on suicide, it’s because they are more in control of themselves emotionally speaking, and less likely to commit suicide on the job:

As a pilot, train engineer or bus driver, the responsibility is huge, because passengers trust them with their lives. Above all, men hold these positions. Of Swissair’s 1,341 pilots, only 59 are women. A similar gender relationship shows itself in SBB (Swiss rail) and the Postbus: of 3,500 train engineers, 80 are women, and of 3,079 Postbus drivers, 245 are women.

Gabriela Stoppe regards this share as much too low. She is a psychiatrist and vice-president of Ipsilon, the umbrella organization for suicide prevention in Switzerland.

“It would make sense not only for diversity, but for safety, to have more women in human transport,” says Stoppe. She bases her statement on the fact that women have lower rates of suicide. “It was only a matter of time that a pilot would commit suicide with an airplane in Europe, too.”

As unbelievable as the case of the Germanwings crash may be, in the past decades there have been several crashes in which pilots killed themselves with their planes. Six are documented.

In Switzerland, suicide is the number one cause of death for men between the ages of 14 and 44. In 2012, 240 of them took their lives. Although the number of self-inflicted deaths has gone down a bit in the last ten years, three times as many men as women take their own lives still. “This should be taken into account in choosing a pilot, driver or engineer,” says Stoppe.

On Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., co-pilot Andreas L., 27, begins the descent over the French Alps. The Germanwings Airbus A320 rapidly loses altitude. The captain is locked out of the cockpit, he can’t do anything anymore. After eight minutes the plane crashes. All 150 persons die.

“Many signs point to a take-along suicide,” says Stoppe. A rare form of suicide. “Often it’s fathers or mothers, who don’t only kill themselves, but also their children and their partners. That someone would take several passengers along is unusual.”

The psychiatrist imagines it went like this: When Andreas L. got the opportunity to put his thoughts into realization, he shut down mentally and emotionally. In the moment of a suicidal crisis, people only have tunnel vision. And as with rampage-runners, there is no way back.

The Düsseldorf police don’t find a suicide note during their search of Andreas L.’s apartment. But they do find torn-up doctors’ notes, current, and even dated the day of the crash, as well as several medications for the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. The co-pilot also suffered from vision problems. The investigators conclude “that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and co-workers.”

This doesn’t surprise Gabriela Stoppe. “Precisely those people who fear that they will lose their job due to a mental illness don’t dare speak of it.” Often, such people will also refuse to take medication, so as not to be detected during drug testing. “Depression and other mental illnesses are, as ever, a taboo in certain professions and careers.” That leads to only about 60% of those affected reporting such illnesses. “Meanwhile, 80 to 90% of such cases would be successfully treatable.”

Nowadays, the airline doctor checks the mental health of pilots during their aptitude tests. Yearly medical checkups follow. A similar procedure takes place with railroad and bus drivers. Bus-driver candidates are tested mainly for resiliency, observational capacities, and also for aggressive tendencies, while locomotive engineers are tested for how well they handle solitude and repetitive tasks.

That alone won’t do, Gabriela Stoppe is convinced. Psychological testing is still necessary in later career phases. And particularly from doctors trained in psychiatry. “Highly intelligent people are particularly likely to conceal such serious problems as paranoid hallucinatory psychoses,” says a Munich psychiatrist, Helmut Kolitzus, in Der Spiegel.

Swissair is currently debating whether to psychologically test their pilots once a year.

Translation mine.

No word on what Lufthansa’s current psychological testing policies are, or how they’ll change, but the fact that Swissair sees a need to change theirs is telling. As is the fact that Andreas L. had several torn-up doctor’s notes in his wastebasket. Clearly not a company doctor, because he was expected to take those notes to his supervisor himself, and he didn’t. Maybe Lufthansa/Germanwings needs to employ a company shrink, one who reports directly to supervisors of the pilots if there is any problem? Because in this case, the patient was trusted to do the appropriate thing…and because he was clearly fearful of losing his dream job, the only one he ever wanted, he chose instead to conceal his condition until it was too late. 150 people paid with the senseless loss of their lives for the unwillingness of one to step back for his mental health’s sake.

But why would more female pilots be an answer to problems like that? Simple: Because while women are more likely to be depressive, and also more likely to attempt suicide than men, they are also less likely to actually die that way. They tend to choose less violent methods, ones which are more readily reversed: an overdose of pills, say, instead of a gun or a vehicle crash. A female suicide attempt is not a melodramatic “bid for attention”, as it’s often dismissed as being; rather, it’s a last, desperate cry for help. And for that reason, a woman who tries to take her own life is more likely to get help, in the end — simply because her suicide method is less likely to “succeed”.

Men, on the other hand, ironically succeed at killing themselves because they are socialized from infancy up to be more aggressive — and by that token, “successful”. They are taught to pursue what they want at any cost, even if it’s unreasonable — eg., a career as a commercial pilot when they are too emotionally labile to handle the stresses — or if it’s death. Extreme behavior is less frowned upon in a boy than a girl, and less so in a man than in a woman, as well. Risk-taking is more praised in males than in females. If a man is violent, “boys will be boys” is the excuse most likely to be waved around.

Should a woman do the same, however, suddenly it’s “bitches be crazy”.

This is all in line with popular stereotypes. A boy with “leadership attributes” is lionized; a girl with the same attributes is hand-waved off as “bossy”. Little wonder, then, that the transport industry is dominated by male drivers, engineers and pilots. It’s not that women can’t work a set of controls (one doesn’t have to be bigger or stronger or endowed with a penis to grasp a steering wheel, after all); it’s that women are more likely to be discouraged from an early age of even thinking of entering those jobs. Because they’re not “mentally fit” for them. Because “hormones”. Never mind that the worst case of PMS doesn’t turn a woman into a deranged psychopath; at most, it puts her bullshit-tolerance on a par with that of the average man, whose hormone levels of course are never blamed for anything. No, bitchez be the crazy ones. Cray-cray-ba-nay-nay.

It is time to stop gaslighting girls out of careers in the transport industry. Because one of our best attributes, ironically, is the very one that’s been used to deny us piloting jobs in the past: yup, our ever-fluctuating, blameworthy hormones. We’re so good at riding out those little physical ups and downs, it actually makes us more mentally stable, not less. We become more careful and more conscientious as a result. And we are more likely to seek help if we need it, too. Female pilots, to date, have caused 0 (count ’em, ZERO) suicide crashes. Surely that’s a significant statistic right there. Why doesn’t the industry seize on that, and recruit more female pilots?

To “fight like a girl” to keep a job one loves means to take a break if one needs it, and return to work later…instead of doing the type-A macho thing and hiding one’s problems until suddenly the plane is in a death dive, and there is no turning back.

Posted in Confessions of a Bad German, Economics for Dummies, EuroPeons, If You REALLY Care, Isn't It Ironic?, She Blinded Me With Science, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on Swiss psychiatrist makes the case for more female pilots »

Bill C-51: Are you on Harpo’s enemies list yet?

If not, shame on you. Watch this and learn why it behooves you to become an enemy of PetroState Canada and Fortress North America:

Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and political association, the indigenous peoples, the right to a clean and healthy environment…all these and more are now under fire. And if you believe in them, and take your belief in them to the streets, congratulations: You are An Enemy of the State. USA PATRIOT Act North, otherwise known as Bill C-51, is aiming to make YOU illegal.

And if you couldn’t make it to the streets, don’t worry. You can still put a fire under your Member of Parliament. Use this letter-writing tool and in a few minutes’ time, you too can be a proud member of the Enemies list.

Now go, and be the best fuckin’ subversive you can.

Crappy Women’s Day, ladies. Here, have a carnation.

In lieu of my usual Music for a Sunday feature, I’m just going to leave this here:

Aren’t those the best lyrics? And the most badass sax riffs, too?

Anyhow. Here’s what women in another part of the world are working at. Specifically, in Germany. Mira Sigel has some hard words about what work ISN’T getting done:

“Happy Women’s Day!” my porn-watching neighbor yelled at me this morning, he who otherwise likes to say that women can’t parallel-park. That he himself hasn’t had a driver’s licence for years doesn’t keep him from grinning snarkily. “Only on March 8: Special offer for women” — my e-mail box is full of messages like that. The sexist shitpile of the Left Party won’t stop handing out carnations to unsuspecting women this year, instead of troubling itself about the deeply misogynistic behavior of its members and representatives. The daily newspaper has a special Women’s Day edition — letting dominatrices tell about their great jobs and invite others to come and “play the whore” while the laughable 30% quota for female employment rings the death-knell of western civilization for many. My boss gives out yellow roses every Women’s Day to his female employees, but doesn’t consider it necessary to pay them the same wages as their male colleagues, much less promote them to leadership positions.

Women’s Day serves as a reminder to all parties, unions and organization do something for women once in a while. A little feminism just looks good nowadays — and can you believe it, women are now allowed to earn their own money and drive cars, so there’s a corresponding marketing strategy. “Women, today it’s all about you,” is the message, which also makes it clear that during the rest of the year it’s not about us anymore. On Women’s Day 2014, feminists were shoved around, yelled at, and sprayed with paint by so-called “sex workers”, johns, and male members of the Pirate Party. Despite more calls for security this year, the stone-cold reply was that there are many forms of violence. Motto: It’s your own fault, you RadFems.

97 percent of board members in Europe are men. Party leader Volker Kauder said in November that female quotas would remain the same, and that family minister Manuela Schwesig could forget about pay equity, and that it was only thinkable for businesses with more than 500 employees. Women earn on average 22% less than their male colleagues; their pensions are 60% lower than those of men thanks to maternity leave and part-time work. That’s how inequality gets cemented — meaning that our own daughters still have to fight for fair pay, even though women still do the lion’s share of the child-care work. Since 2014 there’s a discriminatory caregiver law, that together with an extremely “father-friendly” arrangement of youth offices and judges sees to it that children can even be taken with police force to their fathers, never mind if he beat their mother or otherwise terrorized her. Whereas when it comes to child support, or a fairer tax plan for single mothers, we see just as little action as with trial judges handing down a proper sentence to rapists. The morning-after pill is now prescription-free for German women, but only because the EU has taken it to heart. One in three German women has experienced domestic or sexual violence, but women’s shelters are constantly being closed or charging fees of the victims. The perpetrators have little to fear.

The female portion of city and municipal councils is barely 23%, while 97% of all single-custody parents are women. Germany is “Europe’s bordello”, where women are quite legally auctioned off as wares. The new prostitution law won’t change much there, either.

All of this is no coincidence. And it’s not the fault of women, with their “bad” choices in careers, partners or clothing, but that of the mighty institutions of patriarchy. In a society where the most important decisions are still being made by men, there can be no equality for women. So you can shove your well-wishes, your carnations and your special Women’s Day offers up your ass. In a patriarchal society, all of this is a slap in the face of every woman on Women’s Day. Instead, make this world a fairer place for women. Don’t go to prostitutes, don’t hit or rape women, don’t watch any more porn, don’t harass women on the street anymore, and pay women fairly. Then we won’t need any more Women’s Day.

Translation mine.

If we’re not equal yet, it’s certainly not for lack of effort on the part of women. We’ve been “leaning in” until our noses are buried in the dirt, only to have more of it rubbed in our faces by the Menz Rightzers, the latest and “greatest” crop of anti-human-rights activists to be spawned by good ol’ Papa Chauvin. Yay! Just in time for our so-called day.

And now we’re being sold the “agency” lie by the pimp lobby, who claim that peddling our asses for cash is somehow sexually liberating and even “empowering”. Really? If that were true, this world would be run by gigolos, because think about it — who’s more power-hungry (and sex-“positive”) than men?

Porn hasn’t liberated women’s sexuality; it’s just feeding us instructions as to how to satisfy the male gaze better. We don’t even know what our own sexuality looks like anymore, because we’ve never been free of imagery foisted on us by people who don’t care about our pleasure or our satisfaction. Instead, we’re being told that servicing men according to their specs is “a job like any other”. Well, why not? We’re already getting fucked over by capitalism; might as well make it literal, eh ladies?

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: When it comes to store-bought sex, women who sell it are not the empowered party. They never have been. They have always been dependent on the men who pay for the privilege, and those men call the shots, always. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

I note in passing that there are still precious few women out there even contemplating buying sex. “Equality” on those terms is unthinkable for us. Partly because we can’t fucking afford it, yes — but much more the fact that we don’t see ourselves as entitled to it. We don’t lack for libido, that much I’m sure of. No, what we lack is the political power to compel men to service us, as well as the bullshit belief that it’s okay for us to do that in the first place. The fact that the converse is not true for the other side, even among men who call themselves leftists, ought to be proof enough that capitalist patriarchy is not dead, that “girls” don’t rule the world even though we do the vast majority of its grunt-work, and that we sure as hell need more than just one day a year, ostensibly dedicated to women, to get it right. Every day should be women’s day, uncapitalized, everywhere on Earth.

“Fifty Shades of Shit”: A German feminist’s heretical thoughts

no-sexual-violence

“No to the eroticization of sexual violence! Boycott Fifty Shades of Grey.”

A sentiment I can heartily get behind. This article from Mira Sigel, of the German radical-anarcho-socialist-feminist blog, Die Störenfriedas, basically says it all for me, too:

It’s February 2015 in Germany, and as a feminist, one wants to pull the covers over one’s head and wait till summer so that the sexist shitcrap that’s currently washing over us from TV and movie screens will at least be made tolerable by sunshine and ice cream.

On Thursday, in Berlin, there was the world premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey. The film version of the book, which is a — yawwwwwn — love story about an emotionally disturbed, violently inclined, rich and dominant man and a woman inferior to him in every way, is creating buzz around the world. There’s talk of “eroticism” and “lust”, and even Germany’s top-ranking feminists are applauding approval, because it has something to do with women’s liberation. That’s right: Getting your ass paddled or playing the choking game is just as sexually liberating as playing the prostitute in a bordello. The eroticization of violence and exploitation is a wonderful instrument of oppression that the patriarchy has just begun to discover. We now think of Playboy Bunnies as kindergartners, and the nonsense of Sex and the City, which for ten years was meant to prepare us for a life as constantly horny luxury queens.

But let’s go on. What’s really upsetting about the story is not that Anastasia sets out to finally find the limits of her sexuality and to cross them, but that she gets “seduced” by a rich, smart, and — naturally — “mysterious” man. What exactly is self-determined about that? It’s the age-old tale of King Bluebeard. Didn’t you know? Well, then, read up. A patriarchal fairytale par excellence. She naturally somehow “senses” that Christian Grey needs emotional rescuing, because hey, why else are we women here, with our bodies, our psyches, and our whole lives, to take care that it goes better for men, insofar as they can take it all out on us? Anastasia isn’t into S/M. She lets him do it to her, because she thinks she’ll get access to Christian’s disturbed emotional world this way. She realizes that he’s overstepping her boundaries, and still keeps going on. As well, she was a virgin before she met him, and has nothing, literally nothing, to compare his sexual experiences to.

Christian likes to hit women because his bad mama neglected him and was also a drug-addicted prostitute. Naturally, the whole wide world of women has nothing but understanding for that, and willingly sticks out its butt, so that the poor boy can take out his feelings on it. In turn we get to see him constantly in the film with his bare chicken breast. Because Anastasia takes his boundary-crossings so self-sacrificingly, eventually he does let his guard down a bit — and makes her his princess. One might laugh about that, because it’s so silly. In reality, though, it’s dangerous. Because it idealize a toxic view of relationships, in which women consequently deny their own needs and boundaries so that they’ll be better off. Women become clumsy twits, who fall so far under the influence of an experienced man’s sexual wishes that they become willing partners for damaging relations. It’s called grooming.

At the Berlin premiere, minors sashayed around with leather whips and other paraphernalia that they presumably consider sexy — because everyone tells them that sexuality is the thing of the hour. A chance to find out for themselves what they like, and to look for a corresponding partner, though, is something that neither our society nor Germany’s leading feminist group will concede to them.

Even the fact that there are also submissive men is no argument. What turns them on is subservience. The fact that a WOMAN is debasing them. Not a man. A woman. A woman who, however, is socially far beneath them. Therein lies the arousal — that is, it comes out of a deeply sexist and misogynous world-view. Sexuality is always to be viewed in the context of social reality. Why else have chambermaids been in the Top Ten list of male sex fantasies for centuries? Why do colonialist world-views express sexual desire in terms of white women and black men, and vice versa? Why are pornos full of racist stereotypes? Why is the horny secretary or nurse a fantasy that gets passed down from generation to generation? Why not a female professor or politician? Because female power — real female power — doesn’t stand for the male dominance of sexuality in a patriarchal society.

Soon, as well, we’ll see the next installment of Germany’s Next Top Model. Heidi ate burgers, döner and sausages in order to shut up the thinness critics. “I’ve been watching the show for ten years,” shrieks an 18-year-old hopeful. “It’s always been my dream to take part.”

Why doesn’t everyone wake up? Shouldn’t girls dream of high-school graduation, university, science, creative heights and successes, instead of making monkeys of themselves with Heidi & Co.?

Society shows young women their place. Either as sex toys for male power fantasies, or as skinny models without dignity.

Hopefully it will be summer soon.

Translation mine.

Full disclosure: I’m not a kinkster. I’m not even remotely curious, having read enough already to know quite well what it’s all about. I have no desire to try it for myself; what I’ve read and seen doesn’t resonate with me — at least, not in a titillating way. I will admit to feeling disturbed by a lot of it, though, and for the very reasons Sigel outlines so succinctly here. The overwhelming majority of it plays to the age-old male power fantasy of “owning” a woman. Even the reversed situation derives its power mainly from the temporary inversion of the accepted order of things. But it doesn’t question that order, nor does it seek to subvert it in the real world. What happens in the dungeon, stays in the dungeon. And anyway, even the most submissive of male subs has his safeword, meaning the action stops when he orders it to. So in the end, even he still has power — even if his male privilege is momentarily (and voluntarily) doffed. The same cannot be said for female subs, whose submission is socially encoded as “normal”.

Worse, the ugliest aspects of the male-dominant power dynamic are so egregious in Fifty Shades that even the most ardent kinksters feel the need to dissociate from the franchise. I may not share their proclivities, but I don’t blame them a bit. They say they don’t stand for Christian’s blatantly illegal moves to control Anastasia, for stalking, for isolation, for abuse, and for the actual, slave-master ownership of a person, right down to a ludicrous, legally unenforceable “contract”. I would hope not! Who’d want to be associated with something so conservative, so un-edgy, so damn OLD? Because really, this is indentured servitude, when you get right down to it; good old-fashioned indentured servitude with a side order of medieval torture.

And yet, heterosexual kink* does partake of the same old dynamics, and that’s what makes it so primal and titillating to some, and fraught — and frankly, ripe for abuse. The kink community has always had its Christians, out to exploit a ready and willing pool of inexperienced young women. And every female sub has found herself at least once, it seems, in Anastasia’s unenviable shoes, being sexually assaulted and having her bounds blatantly overstepped by a dom who refuses to hear NO. And has had to warn others away from that freak. Who is not, unfortunately, that much of a freak.

Sometimes, the only thing that separates a kinky abuser from a garden-variety one is the leather costumery. And even Christian, in his “kinky” mode, is not that much of a one for the leather gear. He can play out his “master” role just as well in banker’s grey flannels. (But hey, at least we get to see him shirtless and sweaty. Whoopee!)

The disturbing thing about Fifty Shades is not the boring-ass sex (which has been described in detail elsewhere, and if you want to read about it, just google) — it’s the mental abuse. And the most abusive thing is that it teaches girls that if they submit enough, they’ll be rewarded with the prince and a tiara and, presumably, a whole stable full of sparkly pink Pegacorns with mauve manes and tails, who piss perfume, fart rainbows, and poop marshmallows, and heal all hurts with the magical light of their crystal horns. That sacrificing themselves and having no desires of their own is the way to a man’s heart, and that they’ll cure him of all his demons that way.

In real life, as has been often pointed out, that way leads straight to the women’s shelter, and often the morgue.

Abusive men aren’t for women to cure, and they don’t even want to be cured. They’re as hooked on their violence as a junkie on the needle. The power fantasy has been marketed to them, too, as a drug that they need to score and go on scoring in ever greater hits, for ever higher highs. The fact that they become numb to it eventually is never mentioned. They end up not in control, but in thrall. The fact that they end up in jail or dead in a grisly murder-suicide is the only logical outcome for that power dynamic. And it’s a fact that gets glossed over by the media time and again. When we do hear talk of a guy going to jail for beating his female partner to death, or of one who shoots first her (and/or their kids) before turning the gun on himself, it’s always couched in nonsense phrases about “senseless violence” that “no one could have predicted”.

In fact, the violence makes a lot of sense, and is dead simple to predict, given the dynamics of the patriarchal, capitalist world we live in. This “fantasy” is a big, money-making reality. Every little Joe Schmoe wants to be a Christian, on some level. With access to an Anastasia, who takes every slap, every punch, every rape, without complaint…just as she’s been taught.

Even the stuff you grow up thinking is so “subversive” and “transgressive” really isn’t. The Marquis de Sade? Hardly a libertarian “citizen” of revolutionary France, but an opportunist who took full, gory advantage of the old droit du seigneur. His perversions weren’t even particularly extreme for his day, at least insofar as literature went; there was already plenty of “blasphemous” spanky-spanky erotica kicking around even then. He didn’t invent a libertine tradition; he grew out of one like a fleur-de-lys from shit. Most of what he cut his teeth on was anticlerical, clandestinely published, and meant to shock with its childish defiance. And it shaped his tastes, without a doubt. His contemporaries were blasé about that. But what made him truly grotesque and ultimately a criminal in their eyes was not what he read and wrote, but what he actually did. To powerless underlings who had virtually no rights in pre-revolutionary France. This was no harmless fantasy of consensual role-play. His victims were predominantly young women in poverty and/or prostitution, who had no choice but to submit to whatever he meted out to them, even death. (Oh yes, did I mention that he was most likely a serial killer, one who pre-dated Jack the Ripper by about a century? Plus ça change…)

Even now, the “sadists” of BDSM are slow to wake up to the fact that their cherished fantasies are the products of some mighty banal evils. Not necessarily childhood abuse, or mommy/daddy issues (lots of kinksters have no history of those), but forces from the larger society writ small and personal, marked “private” and for individual sale only. Some, to their credit, are at least distancing themselves from the mad Marquis, recognizing that a man of the upper class, who poisoned, mutilated and flayed young peasant women without pity, is no role model. They stress safety, sanity, consensuality. They take it as a bounden duty to provide aftercare, and laudably tend to the wounds they inflict. They are seeking alternative terms for their kink, words that don’t hark back to droit du seigneur — at least not so blatantly. Bless them for trying. It’s just a pity that those same terms they stress so hard — safe, sane and consensual — are also being used by some, who are far less scrupulous, to gloss over the serious examination of kink’s background forces that is long overdue.

But that, too, is quite understandable, in light of the blinding obvious. People want to have their cake, and their fetishes too. What else is there to do on your own time in this god-awful crapitalist soul-eating world? Why kill the buzz of kinky “transgression” with structural analysis of its deep-down conservatism, with examination of class and privilege, with history, with the nasty inconvenient fact that the playing field is not finally level now, but still every bit as lumpy and unfairly tilted as it’s ever been, even without the old seigneurial class?

And whose rights are being perpetually eroded by all the bogus talk about “sexual freedom”, used by real sadists like Jian Ghomeshi to assert that their ugliest whims are nothing less than a basic human right?

Take a wild guess. Take several. Take all the time you need.

*Gay kink — more liberating/liberated than straight? Don’t bet on it. A lot of butch/femme and even racist and homophobic stereotypes are played out there, following problematic templates similar to those of the straights. After all, they all have the class consciousness of a heterosexist society as their biggest (and really, only) role model.