Being a Feminist: Between Clichés and Truths (by Sarah Andres; translation mine)

This post is a translation of a post on Sarah Andres’s blog. The word “post” links to the original. Now, for the words of Sarah Andres:

For many, “feminist” is an insult. A cuss word. A synonym for a bossy, domineering woman [French, dominatrice, “dominatrix” is an alternative translation]. Castrator. For this article dedicated to my[Sarah’s] life facing sexism, I’m making a compilation of remarks I receive when I say I’m a feminist. These come from those close to me as well as from strangers. They’re recurrent, and full of clichés to deconstruct.

“You’re a feminist? Well, you must be a lesbian, seeing that you don’t like men.”

That was said to me one day by a man I bumped into at a soirée. It was said without spitefulness, without aggressiveness, it was nearly a constant. You’re a feminist THEREFORE you don’t like men. Eh, no, my dear fellow. Whether or not I’m a lesbian (because we beat our mucous membranes) it’s not men that I dislike, but patriarchy. True, not all men are bidet scrapings. But even if not all men threaten women, all women are threatened by men. Sexism, like every other oppression, is institutional and systematic. It sets up a system, and that is really the problem.

Being a feminist is wanting equality. A man isn’t worth more than a woman, and vice versa. It’s not men that feminists dislike, it’s sexism. Is that really so hard to understand?

“Concretely, I don’t understand how one can be a feminist today! You women now have the right to vote like men, thus there is nothing else to demand.”

There again, this type of reflection often pops up in my face when I talk about feminism. The fight for gender equality doesn’t just stop at voting rights, abortion, contraception, etc., though they’re essential, as these rights are endlessly put in danger. On my blog[that is, Sarah Andres’s blog; link above under her name, site in French], you’ll find a plethora of articles on my daily life facing sexism.

“And what does your boyfriend think of this? I mean, it can’t be easy having a feminist for a girlfriend.”

You’ll notice the heterocentrism of the question. No, sorry, the affirmation. Note that at the time of writing these lines, I have never had a romantic relationship. Nothing to do with my feminism, but if you want to know more about it, here you go:

The line underneath says, “Feminism isn’t only reserved to women.”

“As long as you don’t show your breasts in public like Femen, it doesn’t bother me.”

In other words, looking at boobs in HD on porn sites and stark-naked women in advertisements doesn’t bother you. But should a woman parade by, airing her breasts, while making a political statement, that’s an issue. Basically, a pair of boobs should serve to breastfeed her kid, sell a vacuum cleaner, help you polish your broomstick, but it’s dirty if that becomes political. I can see we don’t live on the same planet.

Anyway, you aren’t credible; you can’t even agree with each other!”

It’s true that, when we look at the political parties, the multitude of social movements that exist or have existed, or even all the religions, all have the same political and social vision and ideological viewpoint in their thinking such that all agree amd are never divided. Bah, no. There are good women for bickering. Now, anyway.

“A feminist, that’s someone hysterical, sexually frustrated, hairy, ugly, frustrated, and with no sense of humor whatsoever.”

Well, I subscribe…

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God’s Hosts/Guests (originally by James Woody; translation mine)

Today I am doing another translation; this time a sermon by James Woody (a Protestant pastor in Montpellier) called “Les Hôtes de Dieu”(original in link). Now, for Pastor Woody.

Hebrews 13:1-3
“1)Persevere in brotherly love.

2)Don’t forget hospitality; for, while exercising it, some have welcomed angels without knowing it. 3) Remember prisoners, as if you were also prisoners; and those who are mistreated, as if you yourselves were in a body.”

“Some, without knowing it, have welcomed angels”, as a result of the hospitality which they showed. Without knowing it…in other words, while being unaware, without knowing anything in particular, without dominating the events, without controlling precisely who was arriving, without following a church project to the letter. In an unexpected manner, some welcomed angels.
DON’T DOMINATE

To not dominate the entirety of events is to allow those whom we meet the liberty to be themselves and to be bearers of differences that could enrich us. Even better, to not dominate from beginning to end those who arrive in the course of the meeting  a discussion, or an interview, is to accept change in contact with the Other, and to not impose limits on reading and interviews, a predetermined  order of required passages. There’s no divine liturgy in the sense of mechanics of the sacred that, without fail, bring in the presence of God.

To not dominate is to not presume who will arrive to a dialogue, a meal, or a walk. It is, in the case of a dialogue, to not know how one will respond before our interlocutor has finished responding.

THE AMBIGUITY OF “HÔTES” 

The word “hospitality” comes from the French word “hospitalité”,  which gives the French language the word “hôte”, used in the French title of this piece and charged with a delicious ambiguity. The word “hôte” leaves us unaware; meaning that when we say “hôte”, we don’t know in advance who welcomes and who is welcomed. To be l’hôte (host, guest) of God could be welcomed by God, or whoever is welcomed, to welcome him. This uncertainty is sweet, because it indicates that we welcome each other, that we never know very well who welcomes, and who is welcomed. This indicated that welcoming is an affair that both enjoy.

Without knowing it, some who thought they were welcoming had been welcomed by those much greater, as a result of the hospitality that they manifested. They were simply available, open, and welcoming of the events that presented themselves. They were opportunists in the sense that they were prepared to take hold of the opportunites that life offered them.

To tell the truth, the Greek text speaks of “philoxénia”, the inverse of xenophobia: the love of foreignness, the love of the foreigner/stranger [“L’ Étranger” can mean both], neaning that the invitation made is to appreciate whoever arrives and not to consider him a priori to be a threat.

DIACONIAN WORSHIP

Some people, thinking to offer a meal, ended up at worship; for worship isn’t only Thursday at noon and Sunday morning. Worship is each time we live hosting the life that the Gospel speaks of, each time we have the desire to embody the Gospel, to be the living word of God in Jesus Christ.

Worship is each time we’re a soul; that is, when we are host of life, capable of welcoming opportunities; and guests of life, ready to be taken by that which life proposes to us, by the projects that are developed, by the adventures that are conceived. Worship is each time we’re a soul in the sense where our personality gets up and grows in the view of the Other, in interaction with whoever introduces himself and enlarges our horizon as much as he deepens our understanding of the world. Worship is each time we are a soul, that we are deeply moved by the world that knocks on the door of our personal story, and to which we extend a nice welcome, unless it be the world that welcome us.

Remembering those in prison, as the letter to the Hebrews invites us to do, is to be host to those that society judges less worthy, the outcasts, those from whom one wants to protect him/herself. The church responds to its call when it is host to those wothout rank, those of ill repute, the importune, and even the guilty. According to the words of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The church is only really itself when it is the church for others.” The church is the host of the world, welcoming people into intimacy with God; and guest of the world, in making itself at home on the concerns of its contemporaries.

We could call this “diaconian worship”: the service rendered to those we welcome and who welcome us, a service giving meaning to the living, in the manner of the angels that guide, that consists of strengthening brotherhood and developing gestures of solidarity. We all get enjoyment when we help each other.

“Hospitality” is, perhaps, a term that we could have in mind to give the assembly of church life an intensity rising to the heights at which the Gospel invites us to live: to make our church a place to be the hosts and guests of God.

No, Whistling At Me Isn’t A Compliment(by Sarah Andres, translation mine)

This is a post from the blog La Mal-Baisée by Sarah Andres. You can view the original here.Now, here’s the post:

As a woman I regularly suffer what they call “street harassment”. Whistles, insults, touch-ups…men treating women as objects are numerous. And they crack down at every street corner.

At the age of 12, I was wearing a B-bra, measuring 1m50, and my new stretch marks on my hips and thighs testified to recent physical and hormonal development. I was taking my first steps in puberty, learning this ” new me” and learning what I like, things that weren’t simple for my part. But, above all, I had to confront exterior looks. Therefore, at age 12, in this manner, I lived my first experience of street harassment. I didn’t know the term, and I ignored that it acts as a real phenomenon in society.

It was springtime and hot. Arriving at a pedestrian crossing at the exit to my neighborhood, I stop. A van passes in front of me. Inside: 3 or 4 men open the window and honk the horn.

Go on, dearie! Give us a blowjob!

[literally, “suck us!”]

Eh, you’re too good, you know!

When I returned home I told my sister, older by six years, of this experience; she responded to me, “You have to get used to it. It’s to be expected. Boys will be boys”. [Literally, ” That’s guys.”] If this “first time” naturally shocked me, being totally unprepared to receive such advances given so openly, I ended up adapting and integrating it as a rule. Around 14 or 15, I even thought that a stranger’s whistle in the street to be a compliment. I had integrated it into my education. I considered it a norm. “It’s to be expected. Boys will be boys.[literally, that’s guys.] As a woman I’m supposed to please them.” I’ve come a long way.

What Is Street Harassment?
It was brought to the attention of the media through the release of the documentary Femmes de la Rue[literally, Women of the Street](2012), produced by Sofie Peeters from Brussels, and acts according to the collective Stop Harcelement de Rue [literally, Stop Street Harassment; link in French]: “(…)behaviors addressed to people in public and semi-public places, to accost them, verbally or not, sending them intimidating, insistent, disrespectful, humiliating, threatening, or insulting messages due to their sex, gender, or sexual orientation.”

ALL CONCERNED

It really makes being in the street a pain in the butt when you’re a woman (note that doesn’t only affect women, as the sidebar above specifies), and has nothing to lose with being pretty, ugly, fat, skinny, or hairy. And when you wear a rolled-over pullover or miniskirt, there’s often the guy at the descent to the metro who comes to ask for your number, and bawls you out when you make the choice to ignore him. Anyway, a recent study proved that 100% of women using public transport are victims of sexist harassment [link in French].

In public spaces, men invest more public space than women, who only cross it. The reason isn’t hard to understand. The other day, I was visiting a large French agglomeration. It was 4 P. M. and I was at the metro exit. I opened the city map to try to get my bearings. I was barely standing there 2 minutes when 3 guys come to accost me:

“Eh, dearie, have you lost your way? Because in exchange for a blowjob we can help you find it” [literally, “because if you suck, we can help you recover it!”]

Not feeling like responding, I prefer to get myself out of there. A minute later, another guy, different from the others, comes towards me: ” Eh, miss, whatcha looking for? If you want, I can accompany you home. We could get to know each other. ” What did I do? I pulled out my smartphone and started my GPS. Too bad for the old school positioning. Too much of a pain in the butt, too wearying, too insecure.

HAVEN’T YOU LOOKED FOR IT A LITTLE?

In France, being a woman in a public place consists of developing multiple strategies for your daily life. It’s concentrating all your energy on vigilance in going about. It’s changing sidewalks when you hear a man walking behind you. It’s reflecting on your outfit every morning: “Today, I’m taking the metro. I’m going to limit risks: no skirt.” It’s spending time finding verbal replies to potential aggressions. It’s having a tightened stomach and therefore closing your trap when it arrives. It’s lowering your head and speeding up your steps upon the approach of a group of men. It’s this everyday, and it’s wearying.

Even a few years ago, I felt responsible: “Shoot! Maybe if I hadn’t worn shorts so short?” But no more. I’m responsible for nothing. Absolutely no woman is. We dress as we like, we go where we want, alone or together, according to our fancy. Justifying a phenomenon of harassment, shot against a woman, due to her outfit or her behavior, is to make her responsible for the aggression, to the benefit of the one really responsible.

Likewise, many people are confused as to the difference between harassment and flirting. I often hear that whistling at a woman on the street “is a compliment”. To make things more clear:

image

(Chart by Paye Ta Shnek )
Translation of table:
Expressing politely, in an an adapted context, one’s desire to know a person or see them again, and respecting their eventual refusal.(flirt)
Whistling at a person anywhere: Parliament, on the street, at work, or in transport.(harassment)
Commenting on a person’s appearance or outfit who didn’t ask or whom you don’t know.(harassment)
Insisting after a refusal or lack of a response.(harassment)
Taking a person’s refusal for timidity.(harassment)
Following or imposing your presence on a person who hasn’t responded or expresses a refusal to exchange.(harassment)
Sending sexual texts to a person who hasn’t consented to that game.(harassment)
Using your position to obtain favors.(harassment)
Threatening a person to accept your advances.(harassment)
Touching/pinching butts/breasts outside of a mutually consenting encounter.(aggression)
Hugging/kissing[the French word embrasser means both] a person by surprise or against their will.(aggression)
Placing a woman against a wall by surprise or against her will outside a mutual and consenting encounter.(aggression)

And for those still not convinced: am I supposed to have something to square with the opinion a stranger holds about my physical appearance?

Having force, you could turn a bit paranoid anyway:

” Eh, miss!”
“WHAT??!!”
“Well, nothing. Do you have the time, please?”

Very recently, the creation of non-mixed compartments on public transport in Germany has revived the polemic. The idea is to create cars specifically reserved for women, in order to fight the phenomenon of harassment. Well, yes, there’s nothing like the Middle Ages of course! Anyway, speaking of flashbacks, we could just simply require women to stay home and only go out in the presence of a man. Radical but effective, no? In fact, the “little” problem with this German law(already in force in other countries) is that it’s (again) women who must bear responsibility for the harassment of which they are victims. It’s always on them to adapt, not on their aggressors.

To finish, just a little advice: for flirting, there are spaces and contexts specifically made for this. You’re in a pub in the evening and someone catches your eye: you decide to approach them. If this person consents to the flirt, then there’s no problem. But personally, asking for my number when I’m leaving for work or have to go to class…No! Just, no. It’s neither the time nor the place. Do you really think that I’ll hand out my number to a stranger crossing the street?