Monthly Archives: September 2016

An every woman’s smile.

I don’t how she does it really. Hillary. I was watching her smile during the debate as Trump was uncontrollably vomiting every cheap, baseless insults (some say “opinions”) that went through his mind. People were quick to point out how uncomfortable and fake she looked when she smiled. Yes, but have you ever wondered: does she really have the choice?

Hillary Clinton is the most qualified and experienced politician to have ever run for president. This campaign was a chance for her to prove that decades of hard work, of experience and dedication to serving her country had made her ready to be the leader of said country. The campaign was a chance for her to show off everything she has learnt through her career as a lawyer, a senator, a Secretary of State and eight years witnessing first hand the realities and practicalities of the presidency. This campaign was a chance for her to admit she has made mistakes and to show that she had learnt from them.

Instead, what is she given? A back-of-the-schoolyard-and-classroom bully who would not listen to anything she says, not even her admitting her mistakes, rather constantly shouting at her, cutting her off with ever more outrageous statements he believes to be snappy and witty come-backs.

I was her for a minute: the teacher ignoring the classroom bully for the sake of everyone else (even those laughing) knowing it’s my job to cater for that bully’s needs as well. Like all teachers in the classroom, she has to be the better person in this campaign and acting otherwise would be the end of her.

Like her, how many times do we, teachers, feel the urge to just stop everything short and say: “What the fuck are you on about, you twat?!” But we could never say that because it is our responsibility to be above all this, to remain calm, on point for something that’s bigger than us and the bully: the education, the future of everyone, including the bully.

As teachers, we are often accused of being robots, inhumane, lacking empathy and kids are surprised when we cross path in supermarkets. You eat food? Or coming of the gym or can talk about a TV show. That’s because we have to constantly put on this utterly professional mask of someone untroubled and only driven by teaching. We are often accused of being fake and cold, especially with difficult students. Actually, the more difficult they are, the more aloof and clinical we are told to be. “Don’t take the bait!”

That’s where Clinton is today: accused of being “fake and cold” in front of a “honest and fiery” Trump she cannot just tell off. Believe me, give Clinton half a chance and she would not waste a second pulling a Beyoncé: Middle fingers up and put them in his face. But she cannot because she knows she will have failed her mission to be above all that and no one will ever forgive her. Some would say this is a good test to see if she can be president. Her sole opponent is now Donald Trump, I think we’re past “testing time”.

When he mentioned her “not looking presidential”,  imagine her saying: “Why? You think you look presidential, sneezy?” People would not have warmed up to her because when it comes to women, a country still wants a perfect mum and a teacher, when we are used to dad’s ever more racist rants.

No one would vote for Clinton would she behave like he does because we expect more from her than anyone ever does from him. We expect her to fathom that this campaign is bigger than her or Trump’s insults, that the future of the US and the world depends on her being strong enough to not let herself being dragged into a verbal boxing round of cheap insults by his attention-seeking, provocative behaviour.

More than every teacher, Hillary is every woman in our society fighting for a job for which she is way more qualified than her male opponent. She knows she is more qualified. She knows we know it. We can all check, it’s open knowledge and yet, she still has to prove it because whatever women do is never good enough. She can’t be attacked for being childless like Merkel frequently is so she is attacked on her appearance, her age and the mistakes she dared make in positions Trump cannot even begin to fathom, such as senator during 9/11 or Secretary of State during the Arab Spring.

The mind of the people is clearly set now: she wants to be president? She must be perfect! What about Trump? He’s a card…Yeah but he’s a man, that’s different. Because we accept and expect men to be bastards once in a while. He’ll know how to turn it down when need whereas if Clinton has not managed to be perfect at all time, it’s in her nature. So Clinton wants votes? She has to prove she is twice as good (in all sense of the word) as he is.

I hear many gay people still banging on about the fact that she used to not support gay marriage. It doesn’t matter that she now does. People don’t forgive and forget when women are flawed, especially on the Left, and her past mistakes, most of which she has acknowledged, are still a hindrance, when Trump’s brashness opens him door after door.

The problem is that people, left or right, still refuse to acknowledge they think as such so, like all women, she must pretend she is fighting her equal. She has to make her opponent and his supporters feel like it’s an even playing field when it’s not. Common sense dictates the balance is on her side but for some reasons, as numerous as they are complex, it takes a couple of two-a-penny alt-right clichés in Trump’s tweets to make the race tighter than ever.

The media are happy accomplice for they like to show it that way too: “They are trading blows”, we hear.

He calls Mexicans “rapists”, women “pigs, dogs”, she calls her supporter “deplorable”.

However, it’s a trade.

I was under the impression that trading comprehends an even exchange.

How can “rapists” and “pigs” be on the same shelf as “deplorable”? How can the facts and experience she is displaying possibly be considered on par with Trump’s baseless garble?

Because expectations are different, all the while looking the same.

So yes, in the face of openly proud racism, sexism, xenophobia, denial, deceit, cheap yet predictable attacks and insults that have opened the White House gates to an irritable, boorish, sulky, incompetent, nepotistic, immature, little daddy’s boy of a man, Clinton must do what every ambitious woman does: fake smile, take the punch, ignore it, keep her head high and keep going with the actual facts in order to keep the debate where it matters and not let the bully stir it into an irrelevant, verbal brawl for only men, even defeated, win in brawls.

“Close your eyes and think of England.”

Well for Clinton, it’s “Fake smiles, fake smiles and think of the future of the US.”

Raw & Rant – When the police refuse to police.

New section: the raw and the ranting.

My car was vandalised overnight. Stone through the passenger window, glove box opened, a couple of things stolen among which sunglasses adapted to my sight, a little bag full of mini perfume samples, some carwash tokens and an unfinished packet of biscuits…All you need for a perfect Saturday evening, ain’t it?

So that’s stressful enough when someone rings a bell at 9am on a Sunday but you think it’s some Jeovah witnesses and you are readying yourself to have a good time proving them what a loads of bollocks they are saying. No, it’s your lovely neighbour who points out to the shattered glass on the floor and feels sorry for you.

I call my mother, in Paris, and whose car it is, and she says I need to go to the police station and lodge a complaint. That’s where things get a real turn for the worst. Police station after a ride sitting on broken glass, I call on the intercom,  say why I am here, a woman takes more than 5 minutes to open the door just to tell me to come back tomorrow because they don’t deal with that kind of problems on Sundays.

Usually quick to react, I am flabbergasted. I just respectfully bow and ask her some questions I already know the answers too: should I make a list of what they stole? should I take a pictures? I already did. My heart is screaming that something is wrong with she is doing but my brain doesn’t register. It’s overwhelmed and I am in full anxiety mode which, weirdly, makes me very poised and clinical, but unable to think properly.

I return home and realise the extend of what happened after I called the insurance – what a nice, lovely man he was! So I call  the police again and tell them my car was vandalised, went to the police station when I was told it wasn’t the right time to lodge a complaint and should come back the next day. I ask for a police station that is actually working and with, at the least, a smidgen of professionalism.

The guy doesn’t answer my question as to where I can go and start telling me that on Sundays, it’s not the police station but the patrols that take complaints. So what? I am supposed to be standing on the pavement all day waiting for a police car to pass by – which never happens in my neighbour, considered posh. He says they will see the damage on their way. But it’s raining and two hours have past since I found out so I cleaned the car, covered the window and swept the glass of the road and pavement in a street with a lot of people are walking with their little animals…and dogs.

He tries to focus on one detail I said about the absence of cars passing by. “It’s not because you don’t see them that they…” I cut him short. “This is not the point. I asked you something simple, you still have not answered and it’s the emergency number. Some people need you, obviously you don’t think I do so have a nice day. Good bye.” I hung up as he’s speaking.

Now, thieves will be thieves. It’s rarely people leaving a fantastic life in a stable environment. I know it sounds rosy and rainbowy and carebeary but I can’t help but feeling some empathy, somehow.  A packet of biscuits and some perfume samples? Was the trouble really worth it? Did you really sleep well after you broke someone else’s car to get that? I guess the unknown person side of it makes it easier.

My problem is when the police will not be the police. “Not the right moment.” Can we be provided with a timetable of when we can report such and such issues? Vandalism on Mondays, assaults on Tuesdays, murders on Wednesday before lunch…

The media, the politicians are banging about the need for increasing security for the sake of us all but the feeling of insecurity doesn’t come only from terrorist attacks. Today, I am utterly stressed and my anxieties are through the roof because I wonder about my car which I use for a living. All the windows are open and the sightliest noise from the street makes me jump to see what’s happening.

I know it’s irrational but that’s the nature of insecurity. Sure, I wasn’t shot in the head by some mad men in the name of whatever ideology or beliefs but I have been spending the last five hours not knowing what to do with myself as the police is refusing to acknowledge that something happened. At least, until tomorrow because it’s Sunday. What does that mean for all the upcoming Sundays and Saturdays after 5pm. Should we all observe a curfew for our own sake and barricade ourselves and everything we had inside because anything can happen between now and Monday morning?

That’s insane but that’s insecurity for you: the biggest political gain for all parties today.

And it’s not the first time  not is it about Sundays. Years ago, on a Tuesday, when some people broke in the house when I was sleeping upstairs but left quickly after they realised the absence of car did not mean empty house, I went to the police. And during my statement, after a sleepless night of fear, the person refused to write down that I knew they were a group because I could hear different people walking on the glass downstairs.

“Broken glass doesn’t make any sound when walked on it”, she snided. I pointed out her job was to write down what I was saying, not to interpret it, surely not to counter it. I had to demand to see her superior and tell them she was questioning my version of the events for her to finally write down what I was saying. I felt like I was the criminal trying to lie my way into getting more that I should when I was just describing the scene as I experienced it.

The dismissal is not just limited to me nor is it to France. Friends of mine have countless stories about the police dismissing some claims and complaints and in England, after someone usurped my identity to steal £2000 for me, the police told me it wasn’t their job to investigate it, it was the bank. The bank was at fault because they didn’t check as they should so of course they would not investigate. Not matter my taking out the money-side of things and focusing on the usurpation as such and possible consequences, they would not take my complaint and I was left in limbo fearing of what the person would do in my name for months.

Today, I don’t feel insecure because of Daesh or Al Qaida or homophobic politicians lurking around the corner to make me an illegal again, I feel insecure because one of the few times I needed the police, they told me my issue was irrelevant and to come back later when more appropriate. Of course, this time, it’s just glass and some petty theft but still, it’s the kind of everyday crime that people must live with and unfortunately the police don’t consider important. It’s like they are all waiting for the next terrorist attack, nothing else matters. “If you don’t want to take my complaint because you have to be ready for the next Ben Laden, you’re wasting your time.”

Criminals will be criminals and that’s an issue but the real problems start when the people who must protect the everyday citizen against them refuse to act according to their mission of serve and protect and no, a patrol does not suffice, carrying a gun does not suffice, walking around looking threatening does not suffice, frisking some dark-skinned people does not siffice for it does not provide with a real feeling of security.

Today, my whole street is looking at my car, the glass in the gutter and worrying about their own possession. Maybe even their loved ones as we were told our neighbourhood was posh and trouble-free. This feeling of insecurity could be gone within a couple of minutes, provided the police agreed to be the police. They have not and my neighbours are appalled by crime but more so by their inaction.

Today, the police are basically making the feeling of insecurity even worse because the question now is : How bad must it be for the police to do something?

“If you want them to come because your neighbours are ASBOs, tell me you hear screaming, or you smell burning” a former roommate, who was a A&E doctor, told me. “If you have an accident, pretend one of your is badly hurt. They’d never move otherwise.”

That’s encouraging…

Ladies, middle fingers up!

I remember years ago playing Uno with some 20-something people and guys kept on cursing. “Fucking cunt” was one of them’s favourite everytime he had bad game and no one reacted. Until, his sister said “Aw fuck off!” after losing. The men gasped, turned to her, told her how offended they were. She defended herself and refused to apologise.

I praised her, the women present stood by her and the game ended with the men saying they were too shocked to carry on. She is a woman, she swore and did not apologise at once. How shocking, indeed…

As Stephen Fry says, I am not one of these twee people who believe that swearing is a lack of education. For me, as a man, swearing is normal. I swear and it’s fine for me and pretty much anyone, as long as it’s not to abuse anyone or in the classroom. And then again, I’m often excused if I go off rail because I am a man and that’s what men do. We are beasts and being violent, “asserting our authority is part of who we are”.

I am not here to advertise nor advocate swearing as a whole, especially when used as an attack on someone – which, by the way, can be done without swear words. It’s just that swearing holds a special place for me in how I fathom feminism.

For me, feminism is to relentlessly fight the gender roles that society has built, whether it’s males accused of being “such a girl!” or women shot down in flames for daring to behave like men. Despite what most (men) like to say, a woman swearing is still dragged in the dirt for having broken a taboo: violence through words.

That’s why I believe one the most poignant act of feminism any woman can do is to openly and unapologetically swear and be crude, raw, true to herself if she wishes to express herself in such way. Which is why I adore feminists like Amy Schumer, Jennifer Saunders, Jo Brand, Joan Rivers, Madonna and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Because their work is a massive, loud, proud and now unavoidable “Fuck off” to what society expects of women: to be nice and polite.

Ladies, middle fingers up, put them hands high. Wave it in his face, tell him ‘Boy Bye!’

People don’t believe that women who swear and talk about sex without euphemisms are dragged in the dirt, well I hereby invite you to read the comments left on Amy Schumer’s latest acceptance speech at GQ. Warning: hatred by the bucket! Especially directed towards her not being funny because her language is crass, disgusting and undignified for a woman.

The buzz is also about Michael Caine’s reaction to her “Patrick Stewart cumming all over her tits” joke. The man didn’t laugh, looks appalled and like an umbrella has been shoved up him and just opened up. So people are going berserk to show that, unlike her, he has class whereas she is trash and cheap. “He’s a true gentleman” and “she’s a whore.”

As a man, the chances are he swears way more often than she does on a daily basis because it’s more widely accepted but in public, things are different.I am not accusing neither one nor the other for this, for the choices they made in defining their public persona, just pointing out at the reactions that are at the complete opposite: he’s praised for how he presents himself while she’s being dragged for basically talking like a man. She is compared to Ricky Gervais and other comedians.

That’s my point! This kind of joke is what Ricky Gervais or Jimmy Carr would do. That’s also the kind of  language hundreds of thousands of male comedians or pranksters use in their praised work, and highly watched and praised videos on YouTube. No one has a problem with that because they are men.

Schumer mentions how unfunny some men still find women who swear and talk about sex when women (and gay men) find them hilarious. It’s not the first time I hear or notice this. Almost none of the straight males in my family or friends circles understand the appeal of Absolutely Fabulous because it depicts women that no man would possibly want to marry. That’s what many straight guys tell me about the series when they try to explain why they didn’t understand the humor. For them, Eddie and Patsy are monsters and nowhere near appealing: they smoke, drink and swear. How not wife or mother material of them!

Women, on the other hand, and gay men, will find a common ground in the depiction of true women as flawed human beings who are aware of their limitations and find the material for their brash and unconventional humour.

Saunders close her acceptance speech hoping she has done enough to promote women’s friendships, the need to not have a conventional, normal heterosexual relationships to define you and women applaud. They applaud her swearing, her accepting and not thriving for another version of herself but embracing her human nature.

What I find the most interesting is that GQ has censored Schumer when she says the word “cunt”* when, at the same time, Glamour Magazine posted a completely uncensored video of Saunders using that very word. It’s not a first for Glamour nor is it for GQ. A women magazine is not censoring swear words whereas a men magazine does. Hmmm…Especially when it comes to words depicting female genitalia for Schumer’s use of the word “dick” was left to be appreciated.

In a society that keeps asking women to hide who they are, change who they are, pretend to be someone else in order to achieve the ultimate goal of finding a man to marry, every single swear words ushered, murmured, whispered, said, told, spoken, shouted, screamed, yelled by women is a step forward.

*Here’s the uncensored version posted by Jim Chapman who doesn’t think she is dirt for saying “naughty words”.