Quotable: Gloria Steinem on “passing the torch”

Posted in Quotable Notables, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off »

“A dignified conversation with protests”

Irish peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy was recently released from prison. She’s 79, she has cancer and arthritis (from a broken neck!), and one would think someone in that condition would be more than happy to take to her rocker and never mind the wicked old world at all anymore. But one would be wrong. She’s more engaged with the world than ever, and if you want to know what it’s like when someone just up and tells death to go to hell, well…listen to her. She takes on everything from the CIA and its torture flights (out of Shannon Airport, which is why she was arrested), to gender discrimination and the crappy situation of the Mountjoy women’s prison. And she even finds time to give the interviewer a hand-knit teddy bear for his child. Dignity? She’s got it in spades, and she doesn’t give a good goddamn for what she’s supposed to do, or how she’s supposed to sound. Martyrdom? Look elsewhere. She’s got no time for it. As soon as her health is looked after, I predict we’ll be seeing her right back out on the runway at Shannon again. Probably knitting another teddy bear, and having tea with the ladies, and making fools of the airport’s security team, as she did the last time.

Stupid Sex Tricks: Fellatio, Catholic style

francisco-javier-martinez

Ladies! Have you ever wondered how to go down on your man without sinning? Never fear, there is a way! The Archbishop of Granada is your new sex guru:

Francisco Javier Martínez, the archbishop of Granada, Spain, gives advice to Catholic women on how to avoid sinning when performing oral sex on their partners.

“Women may perform fellatio on their husbands whenever they ask. But when they do so, they must think of Jesus in order not to turn perverted. Remember that you are not a pervert,” he says.

The prelate has already generated controversy with his book, “Marry and Submit”, published last December in Europe.

Ladies, don’t stop reading!

Translation mine.

“Close your eyes and think of Jesus”? Kinky! I wonder which hot Jesus from the movies I should think of. Oh, decisions, decisions…

I also wonder if the archbishop gives men similar advice regarding the Virgin Mary. Hey, it IS a natural form of birth control!

Nadya and Masha…free again!

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, of Pussy Riot, were arrested, briefly held, and then freed again…in Sochi, of all places. I’m not buying that “theft” accusation — are you?

Posted in Teh Ghey, Teh Russkies, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off »

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Tania the Immortal

tania-in-havana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation mine.

Honor and dignity to the memory of Tania the Guerrilla!

Carina Vogt’s twofold victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation mine.

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

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

If “misandry” were a real thing…

Shyness: not a human rights violation.

wongene-daniel-kim

Sorry, Men’s Rightsers. If you were hoping to make a test case for your ideology out of this guy, the facts of the matter have just made a hash out of it:

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint by University of Toronto student Wongene Daniel Kim, who accused his professor of discriminating against him as a male when she docked him marks for not coming to class because he was too shy to be the only guy.

The second-year health science major arrived at the opening of a Women and Gender Studies course for which he had signed up in the fall of 2012 — “It had spaces left and fit into my timetable” — only to discover a room full of women and nary a man in sight.

“I felt anxiety; I didn’t expect it would be all women and it was a small classroom and about 40 women were sort of sitting in a semicircle and the thought of spending two hours every week sitting there for the next four months was overwhelming,” said Kim, 20, adding he manages a part-time job with women because there are also other men.

“I’m generally a shy person, especially around women, and it would have been a burden if I had had to choose a group for group work.”

He didn’t stay for class — that day, or ever — but continued in the course and asked Professor Sarah Trimble to waive the 15 per cent of the mark earned by class participation and attendance.

She refused.

Which is only fair. Everyone is expected to do the same work; a gender-based pass for Kim wouldn’t have been fair to his classmates.

In other words: The work women have done over the past few decades to eliminate sex-based discrimination hasn’t created a situation of reverse discrimination; it has created, rather, a level playing field, where men and women are expected to work together no matter the gender ratio, and where marks are based on how well they do, not on what reproductive plumbing they have.

So far, so good. But then this happened:

Kim got poor marks on assignments and ended up failing the course, which he said he found frustrating after spending the money on course materials.

He asked Trimble to reconsider his mark. When she refused, he complained to the Human Rights Tribunal that she was penalizing him because he was male.

Which, clearly, was NOT the case. Class attendance counted for 15% of the mark — no exceptions.

And if he was being discriminated against on account of gender, why was there not a sign on the door reading “NO MEN”? Or a marker on the course calendar indicating “Female students only”?

Oh yeah, that’s right: because THAT would have been sex discrimination. And that would be, if not outright illegal, certainly unethical.

Kim said he had been unaware how poorly he was doing until it was too late because Trimble didn’t post marks on the course website. She handed assignments back in class.

“We live in a digital era, why couldn’t she have posted the marks online?” Kim said in an interview. “I believe if you want to attract more males to these courses, you have to work with them. My request for accommodation was reasonable.”

Except that no one else was asking for special accommodations; everyone else was happy to comply with the course requirements, and didn’t find them at all unreasonable.

Given all the whining from the “manosphere” about how women are always expecting special treatment (with lowered expectations, natch), it’s hilarious and ironic that when someone does demand just that on the basis of sex, it turns out to be a male. And he’s suffering from the very affliction that supposedly makes women too delicate to live in a man’s world: shyness.

“The applicant has not satisfied me that his claimed discomfort in a classroom of women requires accommodation under the (Ontario Human Rights) Code,” wrote adjudicator Mary Truemner. “He admitted that his discomfort is based on his own ‘individual preference’ as a shy person . . . and stated he thought they (the women) would not be willing to interact with him because of his gender.”

This was “merely speculation as he never gave the class, or the women, a chance,” wrote Truemner, vice-chair of the tribunal.

Kim had no evidence of being “excluded, disadvantaged or treated unequally on the basis of” his gender, she said.

This is true. Kim was the only person keeping Kim from attending on the basis of gender.

I can attest that classroom participation was actually a great help in overcoming my own once crippling shyness. Many third-year classes were small seminar-style courses, in which the big, anonymous lecture hall of the first and second years was gone, and the students and prof all just sat around a square of tables, discussing things like Old Norse sagas and Beowulf. Despite the initial linguistic challenges (imagine having to learn two new languages in one year!), I found that I was finally in my element. After that, I was able to speak up anywhere, without stage fright.

Here’s another salient point: I also availed myself of the university’s counselling service. That’s what it’s there for: to help troubled students before they’re forced to drop out. I got tested, found out that introversion is natural and normal, and that you can learn to live with it, and yes, even succeed with it. And I did.

It’s a matter of being able to distinguish between the political and the personal. And to not hide behind the one when the other is the real issue.

In this case, there was no discrimination on the basis of sex. Kim didn’t recognize in time that his own shyness was tripping him up. Maybe next time, he’ll seek help. It’s a lot easier to go in for a few counselling sessions than it is to sit through the ignominy of a failed human-rights complaint, when all’s said.

She won’t! She won’t! She won’t!

Word reached me yesterday that the above song no longer holds true, and that Toni Tennille has filed for divorce from the Captain. No word on what grounds, if any. (My own for-what-it’s-worth guess is too many other dinghies clogging up the marital harbor. That would do it for me, at any rate.)

Oh well. As long as Helen Reddy doesn’t decide to give up roaring, I guess I’ll live.

Posted in Law-Law Land, The Nausea, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off »

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

Bit of mood music, maestra:

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

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

What happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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