“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.

“Dear Madame Minister”: A German ex-prostitute’s open letter

bordello-raid.jpg

The no-doubt-ironically-named Paradise bordello…just one of several German brothels which were recently raided by police on suspicion of human trafficking.

Think Germany is a paradise for women in prostitution? Think again. A formerly prostituted woman has written to Manuela Schwesig, a government minister in charge of updating German prostitution laws. And what she has to say about the proposed changes is important, but it’s not an easy read:

Dear Madame Minister Schwesig,

I’m writing you today because I can see that the just-unveiled prostitution-law reform proposal has the clear markings of the bordello and pimp lobbies. That’s why I want to ask you to finally confront the reality of the red-light district instead of going on listening to people who keep retelling the fairytale of the self-determined, happy hooker.

I am exited from prostitution, in which I spent ten years. Thus I know well whereof I speak. The reasons for my entry were many: a difficult family origin, in which I was massively and also sexually traumatized by violence against my mother and myself, has had an influence on me, as did the then-widespread fairy tale about the happy prostitute. Also financial need and a lack of social and psychological help played a role.

Yes, if you like, I entered “voluntarily”. I’m one of the oft-cited “voluntary prostitutes”. But what is “voluntary”, Frau Schwesig, when a person traumatized by child abuse comes to this decision? For me, prostitution was a step up, because I had already learned that I, because I was a girl, am so helpless and without rights and am sexually abused. So I could also take money for it right away, and at least secure my own survival.

If you think that I’m a sad isolated case, I must contradict you. In those ten years I met many prostitutes, and there was not a single one among them who was not abused as a child, beaten, or raped as an adult. I have seen a psychic compulsion to keep repeating and repeating the trauma (in prostitution), and self-esteem broken by violence, in so many prostitutes. Of violence in the milieu, of the johns — who do things to us that you don’t even want to think of in your dreams — I don’t even want to start here.

Those are the realities of the milieu, Frau Schwesig, and that’s just the “voluntary” prostitutes. And yes, they too suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, drug and alcohol addictions, because they can’t stand it. I really don’t want to talk about the fact that 90 percent of all prostitutes in Germany aren’t even from Germany. Your imagination will suffice to imagine what their life circumstances are.

Last November I wrote an open letter, because I couldn’t stand it anymore that the pro-prostitution lobby tells such fairytales as that of the free, self-determined whore. I’ve linked it for you, in case you’d like to read what it’s really like to prostitute oneself. Why do you hear that so rarely? First off, because the pro-prostitution lobby intimidates us (ever since that letter, I get really nasty e-mails, full of spite and threats), and secondly, because we exited women are too traumatized to speak.

Even non-prostituted women are affected by prostitution, because the johns are their men, and they take what they’ve learned in the brothels — namely, to despise women, to buy them, to torture them — back home to the bedrooms of their own women. Society gets brutalized, Frau Schwesig. It is an endless loop: When prostitution is legalized, the demand grows, because men learn that it’s all right to buy women’s bodies, overstep boundaries, abuse power. Availability grows, which means there is also more forced prostitution. This, again, increases the acceptance of prostitution in society, then demand grows, and so on.

90 percent of all German men have already been in a bordello. Every third one does it regularly. Do you know what goes through their heads, Frau Schwesig? I know, because I lived through it in the whorehouse. The same men, who shake your hands in a friendly way today, will spit in a prostitute’s face tomorrow during the act, get off on her gagging when she has to swallow sperm, and learn to enjoy women’s suffering. Would you like to live in such a society? That can’t be your vision!

There will never be a sexually equal society as long as men buy women and can abuse them. And there is also no “clean” prostitution!

That’s why I’m urging you not to listen to only those in favor of prostitution, who are incidentally mostly being guided by bordello owners. Go a little further into the swamp, and you’ll land among human traffickers and organized criminals. Listen to trauma therapists and exited women, too. The prostitution lobby does NOT speak for us prostitutes and ex-prostitutes! It doesn’t consist of even 100 people, who do not represent us, the 300,000 prostitutes in Germany, but intimidate us and work against our interests!

We don’t want to do this job. We don’t need legalization! We don’t need anyone who claims that we don’t want registration, mandatory condom use, etc.! Yes, we do want those things! And we would like more than anything not to have to do this job anymore. And that the men who abuse(d) us should be punished. We need alternatives, not more entanglement in the destructive, inhumane powers of the milieu!

Dear Frau Schwesig, it’s not so long ago that I left prostitution: three years. I had my first john at 18. Do you know what I would have needed most in the ten years that I was in prostitution, in which I was beaten, raped, retraumatized, despised, dehumanized and sick in body and soul? Help and a sensitized society that don’t expect me to want to “live it up” and even enjoy being abused.

I don’t know any prostitute who does it willingly. I don’t know any ex-prostitute who doesn’t have post-traumatic stress disorder. All the women I know have been wrecked in prostitution.

Please ban this inhuman, undignified prostitution. And if that’s not possible for you, then please rein it in as much as you can. Many thanks for reading my letter.

Huschke Mau.

Translation mine. Linkage as in original.

So there you have it. What’s being sold as a “paradise” is only that for sex capitalists — pimps, human traffickers, brothel owners who charge extortionate daily room rates for the women — and maybe the johns, too, who get to act out all their violent fantasies for increasingly lower flat rates, and maybe take home a whole new bag of ugly tricks to spring on the wifey. Along with a fine dose of the clap, since no one’s stopping them from insisting on condomless intercourse (it’s even advertised on the brothel menu as “AO” — “Alles Ohne”, or “everything without”. The only ones NOT benefiting from all this are, as usual, the women…German and otherwise, prostituted or not. For them, it’s a hellhole. And the government is still not listening.

PS: Huschke Mau’s first open letter is translated here. Scroll down.

Male rage and narcissism: The unspeakable keys to the Germanwings disaster

Andreas-Lubitz

Andreas Lubitz: hard-charging macho with a deadly grudge.

By now, it’s no secret that various stripes of misogynists have seized upon the Germanwings crash as evidence that women are evil, as much as claiming that Andreas Lubitz was “driven” to kill, somehow, by some evil female (or females) who crushed his manly spirit. In their feverish effort to justify his crime, they seem to have unwittingly put a finger on a part of the problem, even if it is the wrong part. Yes, gender was a driving cause behind the crash, says EMMA’s Alice Schwarzer. But it wasn’t any woman’s fault. The problem lies with how men are socialized to deal with feelings of hurt, failure and loss of honor…or rather, not to deal with them, but to simply act out their blind, entitled rage:

The shitstorm that raged against EMMA on the Internet on the last weekend of March was violent. “Absurd and fanatical”, “disgusting”, “the height of tastelessness”, posted and twittered the outraged. What happened? After the plane crash in which co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately and, as we now know, after long planning, crashed a Germanwings Airbus in the Alps with 149 passengers aboard, linguist Luise Pusch called for a quota of female pilots. Because: “Rampages and so-called family murders, which are often whitewashed as ‘expanded suicide’ and ‘take-along suicide’, are crimes that are almost exclusively perpetrated by men. For rampage flights, which apparently occur more often than is publicly known, the same holds true.” Pusch’s conclusion: If Lufthansa wants more safety, it should raise the proportion of women pilots from just six percent.

The same thing was called for on the same day by a Swiss psychiatrist, Prof. Gabriela Stoppe, in Schweiz am Sonntag and in the Tagesanzeiger. “It would make sense, not only for diversity, but for safety above all, to have more women employed in human transport,” wrote the vice-president of the umbrella organization for suicide prevention. According to Stoppe, in recent years pilots committed suicide by plane six times already, outside of Europe. Says Stoppe: “It was only a matter of time before a pilot in Europe also committed suicide with a plane.”

But while the Swiss media reported the psychiatrist’s opinion without upset, in Germany the Internet swarmed all over EMMA. And the media quickly followed up: “Is EMMA really instrumentalizing the dead for the quota?” demanded the Süddeutsche Zeitung in tones of outrage. And the Frankfurter Allgemeine moaned over EMMA’s “untroubled tone” in view of the dead.

The question of what role sex plays in a rampage-crime like that of Andreas Lubitz is thus still taboo. But the facts have long spoken for themselves. Rampages, most including the eventual suicide of the killer, are carried out as a rule by men. The list is unfortunately long; here are just a few examples: Montréal, 1989 (14 victims); Colombine, 1999 (13 victims); Erfurt and Eching, 2002 (19 victims); Emsdetten, 2006 (5 victims); Virginia, 2007 (32 victims); Winnenden, 2009 (16 victims); Utöya, 2011 (88 victims); Newtown, 2012 (28 victims); Santa Barbara, 2014 (6 victims).

Female rampagers are, to date, almost nonexistent. Not, by any means, because women are the better people, but because frustration and aggression take a different route in women than in men — namely, more inward than outward, less physical and more psychological, more self-destructive than destructive.

Rampagers often suffer from feelings of humiliation and “wounded pride” — that is, from overblown narcissism. So says a report for the Frankfurter Allgemeine by Heidelberg psychiatrist Reiner M. Holm-Hadulla. He wrote of the Lubitz case: “Much more likely than a depressive illness appears to be a narcissistic personality disorder, characterized by strong self-centredness and a lack of empathy for other people.” And he continues: “Blind rage is the determining mode of reaction for narcissistic individuals in the face of hurt feelings…The grandiose destruction makes Andreas Lubitz’s crime comparable to a terrorist attack. Cold hate can grow so strong that one’s own narcissism can be executed without regard for the individual suffering of hundreds. Andreas Lubitz is responsible for that.”

This motive also applies to the so-called “expanded suicides” of married men. The Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law recently published a study, “Familial Killings With Additional Suicide in European Lands”. Researchers scanned 250,000 newspaper articles about so-called “family dramas”. The result: 1,100 victims in a ten-year space; that is, over 100 a year in Germany alone. 963 of these victims were killed by men; among them, 700 (married) women.

The commonest case is the “murder-suicide”: A man, who kills his wife (and sometimes their children, too), for example after the announcement of a separation, and then himself — but the suicide attempt often notably fails. Central signs of this variant, according to the Max Planck Institute: “Jealousy, possessiveness, control, punishment, restoration of pride.”

So, it’s a fact: Men are more likely than women to “take others along” when they try to kill themselves. That could also hang together with the fact that narcissistic disorders are more common in men than in women. Signs: “Fragile self-esteem, but grandiose sense of self-importance”, together with “lack of empathy”. So says the Network for Psychosocial Health.

And then there’s the notably higher suicide rate for men. Of the 10,000 persons who take their lives in Germany per year, 70 percent are men, according to the German Society for Suicide Prevention. The grounds for all that, obviously, lie not in biological sex — men are not “evil by nature”, and women not “naturally good”. It has something to do with sex roles that men tend to react differently to breakups and hurts.

That goes for the deserted husband who tries to restore his injured “male honor” by murdering his wife. It goes for war veterans, whose cultural indoctrination not to kill was torn down by war and also no longer functions in peacetime. In the US, in the last decades, there have been various cases in which returning soldiers killed their wives or others. The consumption of porn and violent movies can also play a role. Specifically “male” violence can have many causes. But as long as we don’t name these causes, we can’t alleviate them either.

[…]

After the Winnenden massacre of 2009, Alice Schwarzer urged people to take note of what until then had been a blind spot: The fact that the killer was male, and the victims in the school class, with one exception, were all female. “Why are even the investigators whitewashing the sex factor in the Winnenden massacre?” asked the EMMA publisher, six years ago.

Back then, even the public prosecutor’s office didn’t think the gender relationship meaningful, nor the fact that 18-year-old Tim had about 200 violent pornos on his computer, showing dominatrices tying up and torturing men. Nor that Tim Kretschmer had named serial killer of women Ted Bundy as his idol on an Internet forum. All “irrelevant details”.

The storm of outrage that broke out over EMMA’s commentaries on Winnenden didn’t direct itself at the ignorance of the investigators, but at Alice Schwarzer. Tenor: There she goes, harping on gender again! And, just as now, the “instrumentalization of the crime” accusation. Not, as in the current case, over female quotas, but because of EMMA’s PorNo campaign at the time.

Six years after Winnenden, and various killing sprees later, the whole world is discussing the gender aspect of rampages — and the potential risks that insecure masculinity conceals. Only Germany seems to be lagging behind, as is so often the case in questions of gender.

Only in August 2014 did Der Spiegel publish an article on so-called “incels” (involuntary celibates) — the unwillingly womanless (young) men who meet out of frustration in Internet forums, and bloviate about their (woman-)hatred and revenge fantasies. Title: “Male, Single, Deadly”. […]

So it must not only be permissible to ask these questions in the case of Andreas Lubitz, it is urgently necessary! The 27-year-old was apparently — according to all that we know up to now — panicked by fear of failure. He seems to have been afraid, rightly, that he would have to give up his dream of flying for health reasons. An acquaintance of Lubitz told Stern that he believed that the pilot wanted “to drag Germanwings through the mud, because they apparently warned him several times that he would lose his job”. Psychiatrist Holm-Hadulla was right when he wrote: “We can and must learn from this terrible occurrence.”

Let’s just imagine that Andreas Lubitz were Andrea Lubitz. Is it likely that she, too, would have flown the Airbus with 149 people into a mountainside? And not on impulse, but with cool premeditation? The answer would be “Not very likely”. Why the answer, in the case of Andreas Lubitz, should be “Yes, likely”, should interest us. Even if it is disturbing.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

So yeah, score one (own goal) for the misogynists of the Internets. They were right about Andreas Lubitz being wounded in the machismo, at least, and that this was a reason for his deadly rage and his ultimate, premeditated act.

But it wasn’t because the evil females wouldn’t blow him. In fact, he had at least one woman in his life at the time of the crash, so it’s safe to say he wasn’t lacking for female attention, or regular sex of any kind. It was because his job — the one he’d busted his ass to qualify for, because the only thing in the world he wanted to do was fly jets — was on the line. His disturbed, narcissistic personality had caught the attention of airline officials, as had the fact that he’d been treated for suicidal tendencies before. He was in danger of being dismissed on grounds of mental illness and unfitness to fly. And, knowing that, it makes sense — horribly — that he would want to “drag Germanwings through the mud” with one last, terroristic act behind the controls of the plane. His aggrieved pride would demand nothing less than the gruesomest “punishment” possible for those who had “wronged” him (in his own eyes).

That’s why he chose to take along in “suicide” not the girlfriend he was having so much trouble with, but the passengers of the airline. If he couldn’t punish his bosses directly, he could still smear their name as he felt they had done to him.

An uglier act of spite could hardly be imagined. And it could not be imagined at all if he were a woman. Not because women aren’t perfectly capable of flying planes, or of flying into rages either, but because their pattern of socialization makes it unthinkable that a female pilot would have flown that Airbus into an alpine rock wall. We women are socialized to look after others, not regard them as acceptable offerings on the altars of our egos. When we kill ourselves, we generally don’t take anyone else along for the ride.

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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.

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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.

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Music for a Sunday: Talk about hosanna

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In Germany, fear is prostitution’s constant companion

sex-harrassment

Remember how, back in 2002, progressives from all over the world heralded Germany’s suddenly liberalized prostitution laws? Finally, they said — the “oldest profession” would become a job just like any other! Unionization! Freedom of sexual expression! Workers’ rights for sex workers! Street prostitution will become a thing of the past! Everyone will work independently indoors, where it’s safe! And on and on.

Well, that hasn’t happened. What happened instead is that this well-intended but badly flawed legislation came together with the neocapitalism of Eastern Europe in a perfect storm of open borders, organized crime, and near-total impunity. So what effect has all of that had? The Frankfurter Rundschau news team went on the streets, and what the women there have to say may shock you…

The well-tended, good-looking woman — let’s call her Anna* — knows whereof she speaks. “Ever since the East Bloc arrived, prices are kaputt. Lots of johns are really shameless. Everything’s turned around: once, the ladies named their price. Today, the men tell them what they’ll give. And if I say ‘I won’t do it for 15 euros, and definitely not without a condom’, then he’ll keep on driving. And later he’ll honk going by, to show me that he found a Bulgarian or a Romanian who will do what he wants.”

Anna is prostituting. For 25 years, as she herself says. It’s cold this evening on the street corner of the Theodor-Heuss-Allee in Frankfurt. Anna stands there in an open down jacket, with a low neckline and high boots. It all comes bubbling out of her: “Ever since I started, lots of things have gotten worse. Respect is gone. But it’s all right for me, I have lots of regulars and don’t have to hop into every car. In the end, you just don’t want to do everything.”

Not everyone radiates so much self-assurance. 100 metres away is Anna’s transsexual colleague, Mia*, who’s happy just to have 50 euros in her pocket at the end of the night. “For having sex twice.” Five years earlier, she used to make several hundred euros a night, says the Bulgarian with the big, sad eyes. She earns a little extra with table-dancing. Otherwise, she has to stand on the curb.

“Earning good money fast” — you can still do that, says pretty young Dana*, on the other hand. Seven months ago, she quit her job as head salesclerk in a supermarket in Bulgaria — “badly paid 12-hour days”. Today she earns a lot more (“25 euros for 15 minutes”) and is, so she says, content. If only she weren’t afraid. Above all, of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

Dana keeps hearing from the men that they’re married, after all, and she looks quite healthy. “Sometimes they agree when I insist on a condom. And then suddenly, in the middle of sex, they yank the rubber off.” Would a condom requirement help her? Dana smiles bitterly: “Only a few Germans would stick to that, the ones that follow rules. My other customers, probably not.” With those, she often senses their disdain, finds them aggressive.

Dana, who works for her “boyfriend”, also fears the other pimps. “They’ll pull women into their cars, beat them up, and drag them off to someplace. Last year, a woman disappeared from here.” All the same, there’s no question for her of working in a bordello, where it would be less dangerous. She shakes her head energetically. She feels “protected” by her boyfriend, who always waits on one of the side streets. “He’d be here in three to five minutes.” But above all, what she earns matters to her. “In a bordello, the clients pay less.”

Only a few women are still working the streets of Frankfurt, maybe about 30. In any case, fewer than 50, according to chief criminal inspector Jürgen Benz. In total, some 1200 to 1400 prostitutes are offering their services in the city. Benz and his colleagues in the K62 Task Force against human trafficking in the Frankfurt Police Presidium are particularly busy in the brothels. There are 18 of those in Frankfurt, with 750 rooms in all.

Above all, the “East Bloc”, as Anna calls it, has arrived: Since the eastward expansion of the EU in 2007, Bulgarian and Romanian women have been flooding the German sex market. In the brothels of Frankfurt, some 90 percent of the women are Eastern Europeans — poverty prostitutes, who unlike Dana have never had a job they could give up. Uneducated — many can’t even read or write — and often experienced in violence. They come from slums, from conditions that no one here can imagine. And they land in circumstances that no one here would wish.

Brutally and unscrupulously, the pimps take advantage of the precarious situation of the mostly very young migrant women, taking a majority of their already meagre income. “With a woman, a perp can earn 70,000 euros a year,” Jürgen Benz estimates. The brothel owners also cash in big-time; the “business landlords” charge 125 euros per day. “A woman has to sleep with 200 men a month — just for the rent”, says Benz. And even though the officer, who used to work in narcotics, isn’t easily shocked, in his sober words there is an ominous tone: these figures scare even him. “A woman who is out sick for one week would be 1000 euros in debt after that week,” Benz continues. That’s why there’s the great danger that she will continue.

That many prostitutes are “in a pitiable state of health”, Elvira Niesner also emphasizes. She’s the head of the group “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” (FIM, by its German initials). In Frankfurt, the organization has its offices near the red-light district; from there, in the evenings, street workers fan out to provide women on the streets and in the brothels with condoms, to advise them, and to offer help. The social workers speak the women’s languages, even if they can’t speak German despite years in country.

Niesner describes the changes in the sex market as dramatic also, particularly the degree of exploitation, foreign control, and violence. “Many women don’t even know in which city they currently find themselves,” says the sociologist and shakes her head, as if she herself can’t believe it. Pimps cart the young women from one brothel to the next, in order to offer the johns variety — “Fresh meat”, they call it in the trade. Thus isolated, the women are easier to exploit. “They don’t know that prostitution is legal in Germany, and that they can work without pimps.”

Most Eastern European women aren’t forced prostitutes, in the sense that human traffickers have lured them from a good job in housekeeping or gastronomy with false promises. Not only the former chief supermarket clerk, Dana, has made a conscious choice. As social workers keep reporting, the women knew that they would be working as prostitutes in Germany. However, the boundary between free choice and compulsion is fluid. Because the perps have deliberately left unclear what actually awaits them: a job that will physically and psychically wear them out. And the way out of this destructive dead-end street is blocked off. Because the pimps won’t let them go, because they’re in the debt trap, and above all, because they have no alternatives.

How different is the picture of sex work which the representatives of the prostitutes’ unions paint, the ones who often set the tone in public debate. To work on one’s own terms, to decide for oneself whom to service and how. A lucrative profession, which one can confidently proclaim. One might suspect that this picture is too rosy. But in fact, the daily routine in a nudist “oasis”, a flat or an escort service is a completely different reality. A high priced-part of the sex market. Or — depending on your viewpoint — an antisocial subculture. And pretty please keep politics out of it, say the “whores’ unions”, who dread fresh interference from the prostitute protection law being tabled in Berlin. That would be understandable, if they did not hand-wave away human trafficking, forced prostitution and exploitation in the same breath.

On the other hand, the women of FIM emphasize that “the biggest group are the poverty prostitutes”. They hail the decision of politicians to concern themselves more with the shabbier side of reality. FIM is hoping that the prostitute-protection law will give a boost to protection for victims. Niesner supports, for example, the planned requirement for health checks, which are under heavy dispute. Critics speak of stigmatization. FIM’s women, on the other hand, see more of a chance to reach the sealed-off women and build contacts based on trust. But: “Health checks must be tied in with consultations with qualified social workers, with low thresholds, in the women’s native tongue, and personal. It’s all about strengthening the women.”

Such structures are lacking in many places at the moment. And they will still be lacking, when the law maybe kicks in next year. But Niesner harbors the hope that they will be brought about under pressure of the law.

And what do the women in the Theodor-Heuss-Allee say? Would they find mandatory counselling discriminatory? There are no clear answers to that question. But it’s plain to see that the street workers are welcome among the prostitutes, even when they come, as on this cold March evening, with two politicians and two journalists in tow. Federal representatives Michael Brand (CDU) and Kordula Schulz-Asche (Greens) tell them again and again that they are working on a new law for the trade, and for that reason want to know, how politics can best be of help. Puzzled faces, embarrassed smiles, shrugging shoulders — I can’t be helped, seems to be the message. “A different job,” says Ilona* (41), eventually. But she can only dream about that. The mother of three children, from Hungary, is drug-addicted and homeless.

“Do you regret your decision to come to Germany?” asks Brand of former supermarket clerk Dana. Anger flashes up in her eyes: “I’m not ashamed of what I do,” she replies, defiantly. That’s not how the question was meant. It’s more about finding out whether it’s true that most prostitutes don’t want to exit. In fact, the social workers of FIM have made exactly this finding. Only a few Latinas have exited lately. Encarni Ramírez Vega, who looks after this group, describes them as “self-aware pros” who didn’t want to go along with bargain-basement prices. The others, to her, are captives of a destructive lack of perspective.

Even the fight against human trafficking is in trouble. The number of legal cases has been declining for three years, but human trafficking hasn’t. It used to be that women would seek police protection. “Nowadays they only rarely come to us,” said police commissioner Benz. “We have to go to them.” And repeatedly, so that they lose their fear of the police and learn to trust. Only that way would there be a chance that they could testify against their tormentors. “No testimony, no trial.”

The commissioner is, for that reason, in favor of legislation requiring registration for prostitutes. “Because whenever I speak with a woman who could be the victim of a crime, then she’s already not there anymore the next day. Where the pimps have brought her, I can’t find out without mandatory registration.”

This proceeding, however, is particularly controversial. It is a delicate matter of personal privacy, and many prostitutes oppose it as discriminatory. Above all women in rural regions fear for their anonymity, and dread a “forced outing”. Anna is afraid that her information could end up in the wrong hands, maybe even those of a client. That couldn’t be very possible. But Anna holds firm: “Later one of them will be at my door, harassing me. No, what I’m doing here must remain discreet.”

Translation mine; * denotes a name changed to protect privacy.

So much for the sex-workers’ paradise of liberalization. Not only has it not cleared the streets of streetwalkers, it hasn’t empowered them one whit. It hasn’t even empowered those in the “safety” of the brothels — a relative term, that “safety”, given that cheap flat-rate sex is the new normal, and room rates are extortionate, and there is no guarantee that brothel keepers will protect anything but their own bottom line. The girls get trucked in from all over, and trucked around until they don’t even know where they are anymore, much less how to speak a word of German beyond what it takes to reel off a menu of acts and (low, flat) rates per.

But hey, at least the johns don’t have to duck their heads anymore when they walk in, eh? Their part of the whole exchange, at any rate, is now loud and proud. That of the ladies, not so much. As even Anna, the most self-confident of them says, she fears the johns. All the girls fear those guys. They’ve gotten cocky, and they are spoiled for choice, thanks to the glut of desperate, impoverished girls from Eastern Europe. And some of those even end up on the street, where it’s not only cheaper to buy one, it’s also dead easy to just yoink one into a car, drive off to someplace where no one can see or hear, and do whatever. For a paltry few euros, anything goes…even without condoms, a fact shamelessly advertised by flat-rate brothels all over Germany.

And of course, no health checks, either. A perfect breeding ground for every STD under the Sun, and probably quite a few we haven’t yet heard of. The rationalizations abound: “I’m married, and you don’t look sick.” That’s as good as a condom, isn’t it? And if the long-suffering wife does end up with a case of the clap, you can always pretend it’s the fault of some public toilet seat, even though that is, in fact, never the case. Prophylaxis: what’s that? And why should it matter?

And if a girl goes missing…well, who’s going to notice or care? As long as she’s not registered, and doesn’t want to be, the johns can literally get away with murder.

And that’s not even counting the pimps. You know, those Eastern European mafiosi who truck the girls in, and around and around until they’re dizzy with disorientation, so that the johns can have the eternal illusion that they’re getting fresh meat, and so no girl sticks around in any one place long enough to form a relationship with a potentially sympathetic client…much less local social workers or the police. Who are effectively hamstrung when it comes to helping or protecting them, as it currently stands, and probably will continue to be when the new law passes. Whenever that is.

Yeah, a hell of an improvement that 2002 law has been. And wow, such empowerment for the prostituted. Yay, sex capitalism.

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.

Cristina kicks Israel’s ass; Bibi own-goals himself before US congress

A half-hour portion of Cristina’s speech before the Argentine parliament the other day, which lasted about four hours in all. This portion specifically concerns the AMIA and Israeli embassy bombings. If you can understand Spanish, you really need to see this. It’s just stunning. She calls out ALL THE BULLSHIT. And all the bullshitters, too.

Hot off the dismissal of a scandalous so-called case against her by a prosecutor later found dead of an apparent suicide, the president of Argentina is turning the spotlight on the very country that wants this negative attention the least. No, it’s not Iran. Guess again…

Argentine president Cristina Fernández requested of Israel that the former ambassador, Itzhak Aviran, testify in regard to the cause of the attack on the Jewish mutual centre, AMIA, in 1994, in order to explain why he said months ago to the media that his country killed the terrorists.

During her speech opening the legislative year, the president announced that “since no judge has requested it”, she herself will “formally request of the state of Israel that ex-ambassador Itzhak Aviran please come to testify”, so that Argentines may know “at least, [who were] the material authors” of the AMIA attack.

Aviran, who was ambassador in Buenos Aires between 1993 and 2000, caused a great controversy early in 2014, when he stated in an interview that “the great majority” of those responsible for the attack that left 85 dead in 1994 “are now in the other world, and we ourselves did that”, referring to the state of Israel.

The Argentine foreign office at the time deemed the declarations to be of “extreme gravity” and accused Israel of concealing information, but the Israeli government denied the information and called Aviran’s statements “pure fantasy”.

“21 years have passed and we don’t have a single person sentenced, nor even one prisoner due to AMIA,” the president said, accusing the Argentine judiciary of failing to advance in investigating the attack, as well as that against the Israeli embassy two years before, which left 29 dead.

“It has always strongly called my attention, I still can’t understand why the state of Israel accuses [Argentina] over AMIA, and not for the bombing of its own embassy,” Fernández pointed out.

“Does anyone know, can anyone inform this president what is the result of the investigation (of the attack against the embassy) by the Supreme Court? Can anyone inform me why the state of Israel isn’t making accusations about the embassy?” Fernández asked.

The attack on AMIA has come to the forefront of the political scene after the death, in circumstances still unexplained, of Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor charged with the investigation, who was found in his home with a gunshot wound to the head on January 18.

Four days before, Nisman had presented a denunciation against the president, foreign minister Héctor Timerman, and several directors of the ruling party, over a supposed plan to cover for the Iranians suspected of carrying out the attack.

The denunciation was dismissed last Thursday by magistrate Daniel Rafecas, on the basis that there was no evidence to support the accusations.

Translation mine.

Well. Wasn’t that a party? Cristina sure knows how to drop a bombshell, doesn’t she. Imagine an Israeli ambassador — or former one, rather — being called to testify before an Argentine court about the attacks on his country’s embassy and on the AMIA centre, too! I doubt he’d show (because diplomatic immunity blah blah, and also BAWWWWK buk buk bk bk), but it sure would be interesting to hear him clear up his statements to the effect that Israel disposed of the guilty parties already, without so much as a word of by-the-way to Argentina! Because if Israel did that, then why this twenty-year campaign to pin the blame for the still-unresolved crime on Iran? And why the current campaign to discredit Argentina in the eyes of the world? And if the assassins were in fact, as Israel insists, Iranian — then why hasn’t there been an international incident in which Iran declares war on Israel as a result? Because I doubt very much that Tehran would take the murder of Iranian nationals lying down, especially if Israel were behind it.

All of this comes at a very interesting time for Argentina, when the country has shrugged off its debts and kicked the vulture capitalists out of country. Little wonder, then, that the right-wing international media are out to demonize Cristina Fernández by any means possible — even publishing that ridiculous, superstitious bullshit about her standing godmother to a Jewish young man in order to save him from becoming a werewolf! Can’t let her look good for righting the dire economic situation that led to Argentina’s debt default in the wake of the crash of 2001, can we?

All this comes at a very inconvenient time for Israel, too, since Bibi came to blah-blah, without presidential invitation, before the US congress. This is not only irregular, it’s illegal, and 56 US representatives have boycotted the speech in protest. It’s unleashed a torrent of blatantly racist hate from one teabagger crapagandist, who wants to see the dissenting parliamentarians strung up and lynched. How fitting that a troll who clearly learned nothing from history would allude to Jim Crow-era practices in defence of an apartheid state where black and North African Jews are treated as second-class citizens, to the point where some are even covertly chemically sterilized. It’s like they learned nothing from their own history, either — else why recapitulate the sort of things that one expects to hear about, say, a Josef Mengele?

And suddenly the bizarre accusations of Alberto Nisman start to make a horrible kind of sense. If Nisman was indeed working at the behest of Mossad handlers, then we can place him (and maybe his death as well) in the context of a demonization campaign by Israel against Argentina. And this in the face of all Argentina’s extensive efforts to co-operate with Israel. Talk about bad faith!

In the end, this will be an own goal for Israel. And they’re already losing badly on the global stage, so they can ill afford to look any worse.

After 40 years, a victim of Franco’s Spain tells her story

lidia-falcon

Lidia Falcón in an archival photo, likely taken before her seventh and final arrest under the Franco dictatorship. The leftist lawyer and feminist was falsely linked to a crime allegedly carried out by Basque separatists in Madrid in September 1974. A café frequented by secret police was the target. Falcón had nothing to do with the attack at all, but that didn’t stop the dying dictator’s sadists from doing their worst to her. For 40 years she was unable to talk about it. Now, she tells her story to Público:

Lidia Falcón was tortured to the limit in the fall of 1974. She was beaten, insulted and humiliated. But not only in prison. In the official media as well. The daily newspaper, ABC, didn’t hesitate to publish her photo on the front page and link her to an ETA attack on the Rolando coffeehouse in Correo Street, near the Puerta del Sol, on September 13, 1974. Falcón had nothing to do with that massacre. But for the police, the Franco régime, and for its hangers-on, it was all the same. She was arrested in Barcelona and transferred to Madrid three days after the attack. She thought she would never get out of jail. That they would kill her first. Franco was near death, and the hatred of his Political and Social Brigade was running rampant throughout Spain. Tortures unimaginable today were commonplace.

The lawyer, writer and founder of the Feminist Party has taken 40 years to recount that dramatic episode of her life. The nine months she spent in prison and the nine days she suffered the interrogations of Billy the Kid and Roberto Conesa. She kept it hidden as much as possible, she doesn’t really know why, she says. Every victim manages the trauma of torture as well as they can. Every person has their own defence mechanism. Silence and pretending were the methods Falcón chose.

Today, forty years later, she has decided to put those tortures in writing and present a denunciation before the Argentine embassy in Madrid as part of the so-called Argentine Case, the only judicial proceeding currently investigating the crimes of the Franco dictatorship and the Spanish Civil War.

“They arrested me seven times between 1960 and 1974, but no one has ever been told what I lived through during that last detention. Why? I don’t know,” Lidia Falcón told Público. She says she finally decided to take that step and make the denunciation in order to “help my comrades who are making such a great effort to put an end to the impunity of Franco-fascism.”

On September 16, 1974, three days after the ETA attack, the Politico-Social Brigade (BPS) arrived at Lidia Falcón’s office to arrest her and take her to Madrid, accusing her of taking part in the attack by planting an explosive charge in the Rolando Coffeehouse in Madrid, a place frequented by the BPS police. They had no evidence. They probably also knew that Falcón was not implicated. But it was all the same to them. They forced her into a car and drove her to Madrid. The same for her daughter and her companion, Eliseo Bayo. They wouldn’t even let her go to the bathroom during the 12-hour trip.

The worst, obviously, was still to come. Falcón spent nine days in the Franco-fascist terror’s station. “They threw Grimau out the window there. They tortured him to the point of uselessness. One thinks it’s possible not to talk about it, that it not come out,” Falcón said, in front of the Argentine embassy in Madrid. “They were furious and hungry for revenge. We can’t forget that 13 people had just died, and there were 84 injured,” Falcón continues.

A doctor examined her upon arrival. “Do you suffer from any illness?” he asked her. “I’ve recently had hepatitis,” she replied. Billy the Kid and Roberto Conesa now had the perfect target to destroy their victim: “They hit me in the stomach and in the liver and tugged at my arms until I thought they’d fall out.” This for three days. No sleep, no food, no drink. Between beatings, they talked about her daughter: “She’s in jail. Maybe she’ll find a boyfriend.”

After 72 hours in detention, she was visited in her jail cell by the instructing judge, the commander of the First Military Tribunal of Judges and Officials of Madrid, and after a lengthy interrogation, Falcón signed a declaration in which she did not confess to participation in the attack, nor any relations with the terrorists. “I’ve asked myself whether the CIA was implicated in the attack,” Falcón remembers, describing how the judge thumped his chest and exclaimed, “I will not allow betrayals of this uniform!”

After the official left, she was returned to her cell. The next day, Billy the Kid and Conesa came back for her. They handcuffed her to two hooks in the ceiling, but Falcón’s wrists were too small. Her 50 kilograms of body weight were not enough to fill the cuffs. Falcón fel again and again. Finally, they tied her with ropes and began to punch her in the abdomen, stomach and liver.

“Do you recall anything Billy the Kid said to you during the interrogation?” asked a journalist.

“Yes. Of course. There’s one thing that I’ll never forget. Ever. While he was beating me about the stomach, he said to me, ‘Now you’ll never stand up again, whore,'” replied Falcón, recalling that after the interrogations, she had to have five surgeries to try to repair the damage from the tortures to her shoulders, stomach and uterus.

Like other victims of Antonio González Pacheco, alias Billy the Kid, Falcón remembers his face well. Those eyes that sparkled upon seeing another’s pain, which enjoyed inflicting terror and exercising the superiority of having a victim tied up and free rein to torture. “He was a sadist. He liked it. You could see he was enjoying those moments,” Falcón adds, recalling that she finished most of the torture sessions by losing consciousness.

When she fainted, they untied her and laid her on the floor. They woke her with a bucket of water. Then the doctor examined her, checking the whites of her eyes and her blood pressure. “Let her rest,” he usually recommended. She remained on the floor, wet, for hours, until they brought her back to her cell. The next day, the tortures continued. On the sixth day, the torturers could not continue with the same abuses. They could not hang her from the wall because she would lose consciousness quickly as a result. Then, when she awoke, she went on receiving punches and kicks while lying on the ground.

On the ninth day, they transferred her to the Women’s Prison of Yeserías in Madrid. The tendons of her arms were torn, as were her uterus and abdominal muscles. She spent nine months in that prison. On June 11, 1975, they gave her provisional freedom and a fine of 30,000 pesetas. Though she had been accused, she never went to trial. In fact, No one ever went on trial for that ETA attack. Neither she, nor the other 21 accused.

Years later, Falcón went to the Historical Archive to look for the documents from her stay in prison, her detention, and the seven arrests. They didn’t exist. Her name only appears on a document which recounts a conversation between two police officers. “Everything has been eliminated. It’s part of the pact of silence of the Transition. Everything stays behind. There are no guilty parties. No one was sentenced. No investigations. Spain is a single country, and bipartisanism shares a big part of the blame,” Falcón says.

Translation mine.

In case you wonder why Argentina should be involved in this case, you may recall what I blogged a few weeks ago about the exchanges between the military academies of Spain and Argentina. Even as Franco’s régime was in its last gasps (literally, since the dictator was on his deathbed), that of Argentina was just around the corner. Already the fascist (“anticommunist”) brigades, both military and civilian, were harassing Argentine leftists, and bodies were beginning to fall. In a country with a long history off generals-as-presidents, a military coup is never far behind, and in 1976, it finally happened. The fragile Argentine democracy crumbled even as an equally fragile and uncertain so-called democracy emerged from the dictator’s death in Spain. It was like the two countries sat at either end of a see-saw: as one went up, the other went down.

But even as the public balance was shifting, something covert was going on, something that would assure the continuation of fascism, its migration between one Spanish-speaking land and another. Spanish and Argentine military officers were involved in an exchange program, and specifically one dealing in so-called “counterinsurgency” methods. In plain English: Terrorism, murder, torture, abduction, permanent disappearance of victims, and erasure of their very names from the records. Officers from one country went to train in the other, and vice versa. The new Spanish democracy was a sham, as much as the former Argentine one had been. In truth, fascism would continue unabated, hidden. Just as the Argentines had their secret prisons in places the public never suspected, so did the Spaniards harbor their torturers in plain sight. And this even with Franco in his grave, and a two-party electoral system supposedly now in place. Officers and torturers of both régimes enjoyed total impunity, and some still do to this day.

It’s getting late, and yet there is so much still to be done to bring real democracy to Spain and Argentina. As long as the victims live, the torturers’ crimes can still come to light…even after 40 years or more.