Monthly Archives: April 2017

Apologetic double-standards

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There is no need to apologise because democracy is beautiful…except when you diss the grand leader, I guess.

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2002 – 2017: Le sacrifice de mes convictions.

En 2002, j’avais 18 ans et étant né en avril, j’ai pu voter pour la première fois aux élections présidentielles.

J’ai toujours aimé le vote. Je me souviens très clairement, quand j’étais petit, accompagner mes parents au bureau de vote le dimanche qui se trouvait dans l’école maternelle. On les attendait dans la cour, je les voyais parler à des gens, montrer leur carte d’identité (une chose que je n’avais pas), puis ils allaient dans un truc avec un rideau qui ne laissait voir que leurs pieds. Après, ils mettaient une enveloppe dans une boite transparente, quelqu’un disait quelque chose, ils signaient puis on jouait dans la cour avant de poursuivre la journée.

Voter était normal. Ca n’arrivait pas souvent mais quand ça arrivait, ça faisait simplement partie de la journée. On y allait sur le chemin de la forêt ou du parc, des terrains de tennis ou de la piscine. Ils n’en parlaient pas mais je savais ce qu’ils faisaient et alors que je grandissais, me passionnais pour l’histoire, la géopolitique, la politique, la longue et pénible car fragile construction des démocraties, le vote devenait pour moi le principe même de l’histoire en marche.

L’année précédente, on avait étudié la Ière puis la IIème République, la mise en place du cens qui ne permettait qu’aux riches de voter puis sa disparition sous les coups des penseurs, des philosophes et des grands hommes. L’année même, on avait fini la Seconde Guerre Mondiale et on avait parlé du droit de vote des femmes, puis de la baisse de la majorité à 18 ans. Je voulais faire partie de cette évolution, en profiter comme quelque chose de spécial qui m’attendait.

En 2002, c’était le doute. Mes 18 ans étaient moins de deux semaines avant le premier tour des présidentielles. J’étais lycéen et me sentais quelque part comme un imposteur. Je ne payais pas d’impôts, ne travaillais pas mais la loi me l’autorisait donc j’avais bien l’intention d’exercer ce droit. L’administration prend toujours son temps donc même si j’avais tout fait comme il me l’avait été demandé, receverai-je ma carte en temps et en heure? Oui et ce fut une catastrophe.

Je voulais voter pour m’exprimer vraiment, faire compter ma voix, faire parler mes convictions mais nous sortions d’un gouvernement de Gauche qui, comme beaucoup d’autres, avait trahi ses électeurs. Les jeunes, surtout, avec une précarité accrue qui devait eliminer enfin le chômage, avec des CDD qui n’ont rien changé sauf à rendre ma génération totalement à la merci du patronat.

Néanmoins, je suis socialiste par convictions et non par intérêt donc j’ai voté pour le PS comme j’ai toujours voulu le faire. Enfin, non, pas exactement: entre 12 et 15 ans, j’étais Marxiste. Féministe Marxiste avec l’idée que les femmes devaient prendre le pouvoir pour faire subir aux hommes les millenaires de servitude qu’elles doivent encore supporter. Le lycée et les cours de philosophie m’ont ammené à réfléchir au Marxisme et à m’en détacher pour une approche plus centrée sur le travail en commun que sur la division de la société en factions qui doivent se battre.

Mais 2002 reste 2002 et je me retrouve à dévoir laisser mes convictions derrière moi pour sauver la Révolution française. Je dois laisser derrière mes idéaux, l’utopie et mes rêves d’une France qui change pour soutenir un démocrate corrompu face à un fasciste négationniste. C’est l’histoire en marche. C’est 1914, Jaurès et l’Union Sacrée. C’est 1932 et la resistance aux ligues d’extrême droite. C’est 1940, De Gaulle et l’appel du 18 juin. C’est l’altruisme intellectuel, c’est savoir abandonner ses convictions personnelles pour le bien de la nation, de son histoire, de ce que mes ancêtres ont construit.

Les années qui suivirent, j’ai pensé ce temps révolu. J’ai voté Royal face à Sarkozy, ai quitté la France de Sarkozy pour l’Angleterre où j’y ai découvert et analysé sous toutes coutures le New Labour, une Gauche que j’admirais de loin mais dont les réalités sont loin de l’image qu’elle se donne. Tout comme la France.

Une Nouvelle Gauche qui est très vite devenue l’exemple des autres Gauches d’Europe: une Gauche qui se plit au monde construit par la Droite, qui accepte la mise en retrait de la société face aux impératifs économiques. Une Gauche qui n’est qu’en opposition, qui n’a plus d’idées ou qui a honte de les défendre parce qu’elles ont été détournées par un Bloc qui fut “vaincu sans même avoir à faire la guerre”.

Cependant, à mes yeux, le PS résiste encore donc, depuis Birmingham, je vote pour Hollande aux présidentielles mais les Verts aux législatives. C’est toujours comme ça, je vote “utile”. Pas de dispersion quand c’est une personne pour éviter que 2002 ne se répète. Oui, le traumatisme reste. Puis je vote au plus près de mes convictions pour que les députés représentent au mieux la diversité des courants, des idées, des classes,  des sexes, des origines à l’Assemblée où les lois sont écrites, discutées et votées.

Les choses sont difficiles mais Hollande tient le cap puis arrive Valls et tout bascule. Le New Labour est dans la place, la realpolitik de Gauche qui se veut adulte et responsable, qui regarde de haut l’idéalisme et l’utopie de la Gauche dite traditionnelle, comme senile et paradoxallement immature. Hamon en fait les frais puis Montebourg et surtout Taubira. Pour la première fois, je ne pas pour qui voter. C’est politiciens créent un parti? Je fonce mais ils restent fidéles au PS qui garde cette tradition d’auto-critique.

Que faire? Je le sens dès 2015 comme j’ai senti venir le Brexit et ai quitté l’Angleterre en 2014 avant d’en faire les frais: le PS va à sa mort. Comme quand les Radicaux de Gauche sont devenus le centre droit (UDF) au fur et à mesure du temps et des gouvernements, une nouvelle gauche renaîtra mais sera-t-il temps comme en 1936?

Aujourd’hui, on est en 2017. 15 ans après avoir été obligé de sacrifier mes convictions sur l’autel de la République et rien n’a changé. On sort d’un gouvernement socialiste qui a une fois de plus courbé le dos et a trahi ses électeurs, sans aucun résultat concret. Pire, elle attaque: les électeurs, la démocratie à coup de 49:3 et la dissidence.

La Gauche se doit d’être utopiste et idéaliste, d’imaginer des choses nouvelles. Qu’elle se fasse ridiculiser par la Droite paternaliste et arrogante, c’est une chose mais que le Premier Ministre et les ministres du PS eux-mêmes attaquent cette vision du futur, c’est dévastateur. Qui va nous faire rêver et espérer si la Gauche ne croit plus qu’en la realpolitik et abuse de son pouvoir?

Soudain, Valls est vaincu et les autres aussi. Hamon est là, celui qui a fait les frais de cette trahison et j’espère, je crois à nouveau. Je ne m’attends pas à ce qu’il gagne mais je suis d’accord avec lui, ces idées, son utopisme et son idéalisme parce qu’on ne va nulle part en restant fixé sur le passé et peignant d’une autre couleur des échecs pour les faire passer pour de la nouveauté. Il faut imaginer, inspirer les gens à inventer quelque chose de nouveau.

Cependant, ça reste un choix difficile parce que je ne veux pas avoir l’impression de voter “inutile”, par seul intérêt alors j’y retourne: dans les programmes, au délà des discours – je ne connais que trop la valeur trompeuse des discours. J’étudie les autres et aucun ne s’approche autant de ce qu’en quoi je crois qu’Hamon.

La Droite sous toutes ses formes, on oublie. Cheminades, je pensais sérieusement qu’il était mort. Mélenchon joue de la division et je ne supporte plus entendre dire que c’est la faute d’untel ou untel, sans compter sur son anti-européanisme qui n’a rien de constructif et son admiration non-assumée pour Poutine. Poutou est intéressant, il parle sans mâcher ses mots, sans être bêtement poujadiste mais je n’ai rien vu qui aille au-delà. Macron, c’est simple: j’ai vécu sous Tony Blair donc je connais les réalités de cette Gauche.

Je reconnais qu’Hamon est un peu maladroit quand il s’exprime. Sa performance pendant le débat était misérable mais ca n’enlève à ses idées qui sont les plus proches des miennes. Alors, oui, aujourd’hui j’ai voté Hammon.

Néanmoins, je ne suis pas aveugle ni stupide et je sais qu’une fois de plus, dans deux semaines, 15 après ma première fois, je vais devoir sacrifier mes convictions pour le bien du pays, même de ceux qui ne le veulent pas parce que je ne que connais trop l’histoire.

Men and women: The stripper discrepancy.

Let’s address a fundamental question here:

Why is it okay for the media to show a male model stripping to cheering women when it’s morally unacceptable to show a women stripping to cheering men?

Why is it okay for women to objectify men but not okay for men to objectify women?

In a nutshell, that’s because very few women actually objectify men whereas very few men manage to see beyond what sexually arouses them.

As a gay man in my 30s, I got to experience both sides when living in England and I have to say there is a massive difference in how the model/stripper is treated. Maybe I have been living in Care Bears world but unlike men, I have never witnessed women calling the stripping man names such as “fucker”, “cunt”, “slag”, “whore”, “piggy”, “bastard”, “dirty little slut” et al.

I have never heard women say to the stripping man: “You want it, don’t you? I know you do, you dirty pig! To suck my pussy! Yeah, that’s right! All you really want is me to sit on your face so I can shove your nose in it. Come on, baby, open your mouth and taste my juice. We both know that’s why you’re here!”

I have never seen a women crossing the lines that were clearly marked. Never have we had to even restrain a female friend because she simply decided it was better to disregard what we talked about, what the agency told us beforehand and just shoved her hand in there to grab the guy’s penis or force him to perform a sexual act right here, right now just because she pays the price. That’s rape, by the way.

With women, the ambiance is of fun. Genuine fun. Little alcohol and a lot of laughter in a mostly bright environment. Once, the room was dark but all the other couple of times, it was fully lit and we could all see each other very clearly. I never felt disgusted or disgusting. On the opposite, the point was to, indeed, enjoy the amazing body of a man who worked hard to get it, but mostly to have a fun and to make fun of the most prudish girls by making the guy dance on them as they were cringing whilst also laughing.

My female friends would talk with the guy afterwards like a normal person after he put his clothes back on. We would share drinks and would talk to him, he would become part of the guests until he had to go to his next job.

We would pay him for his stripping as a entertainer and we would always acknowledge his humanity. Some have thought otherwise, I am sure, but we never acted like we owned him for the time he worked for us. Of course we had his body in our head and we talked about it with him too, trying to hide the fact that we did crave for him to pound each of us until we turned blue. Nevertheless, he was never meant to feel like just a piece of worthless meat designed solely for our most unbalanced sexual fantasies, or as an morally reprehensible accessory we would share in secret as mean to bound us further.

Whereas all the abhorrent talk and insults I mentioned before is what I have always witnessed with men. With men, it’s squalid, insulting, disgusting. You always find yourself in some weird places in the badly-lit backstreets of towns, in a room where you cannot see anyone else but the girl doing what is essentially a job to pay the rent, the food for her kids or her studies. Do any of the men present ever think of that as they shout insults? Does it ever cross their mind that the moving body in front of them is living beyond these walls, has a life and has a story to tell? No. And not because they are inherent low-lives but because they drink to behave as such.

Indeed, unlike with women, there is this constant need for alcohol with men because of course behaving like beasts doesn’t come naturally to humans anymore. Education means inhibitions that will only go away with drugs.

With men, I witnessed what we have normalised as “locker room talk”: this competition in being the one who will degrade the stripping woman the most, this bounding in the secrecy of doing together something they know to be wrong or reprehensible. This “Bros before hoes” mentality where the “hoe” will pay the price of the men becoming “bros” – sports being the cesspit of this type of masculinity.

Personally, I have seen married men having to be pushed back by bouncers because they always want to put their hands where they know they mustn’t. I have seen friends of mine in long-term relationships becoming nothing but sex on legs, rubbing their crouch, if not just plainly masturbating within less than a minute after the girl started.

There are many reasons to explain the difference in behaviours and why women very rarely objectify men like that men objectify women. One of them is how men and women behave towards finding a mate to begin with, as women are told very early that finding the “right one” is an essential goal in their life. Therefore every “alpha male” is not yet another fuck on the way to menopause but a potential father. It is deeply carved in the psyche of society and women so competition between women will be to be the most attractive to that man, the most wife-material and that’s not by drinking, swearing and assaulting them that it will occur. Men don’t have this kind of expectations regarding women and themselves.

Actually, speaking of gender education, what I am saying is not entirely true for men are changing. In November, the Guardian published an article showing that men do not enjoy the debauchery of stag-dos anymore, a study that comes after travel agencies have noticed a change in stag-dos pattern and what men do before they get married: no stripper, it’s all about arts and wine.

What these studies show is a trend towards the end of objectification altogether as brotherhood is being redefined. We thought men enjoyed objectifying and found it acceptable, we thought and still think it is the norm within between men, as shows the question I am addressing. In fact, no matter what Mr Trump and over-60s ilks might think, do, say and pretend, it turns out, overall men actually don’t enjoy it. As men are ever more educated towards gender equality and being in touch with their feelings and the ones of others, they find objectification more and more degrading for the woman and also for themselves. They don’t enjoy being reduced to senseless beasts anymore.

Now, we are a long way from a group of men platonically inviting the female stripper to join them as a guest to their party but we are getting there in terms of mutual respect. And aside the sexual roasting of footballers and other sportsmen, I can’t help but also seeing American series like Friends which, more than a decade ago, were already showing the decline of a brotherhood and male friendship built solely around the sexual objectification of women. And as far as sisterhood is concerned, it is defined within the realm of femininity, not towards or at the direct expense of men.

In the meantime, this difference between men and women,  the difference in how they see and treat the other gender stripping, how much of their humanity they actually acknowledge, the difference is what part the other gender plays in the definition of brotherhood and sisterhood is what makes women enjoying a man stripping morally more acceptable.

A teacher’s words – First rule of teaching: Enjoy yourself.

I am surrounded by people in my profession who are constantly asking why I spend so much time making “cute” PowerPoint presentations for my lessons. Why the cats, kittens, puppies and  other funny animals memes? Why the omnipresence of colours? All in every shades of blue, white and red with instructions in purple for French lessons. Red, yellow and orange for Spanish. Red, yellow and black for German. Yellow, blue and green for Swedish…

“It takes times, it must be a drag. No wonder you work so much!”

It is true that I can spend 50 hours every week planning for my 25 to 29 hours of teaching. That’s a lot, yes so why not just put some words and occasional fancy font on a couple of slides and go home?! Why am I doing this to myself?

Because I am not. I like it. I need visual stimulation to enjoy something and if I myself don’t enjoy my lesson, who will? That’s whence the very precisely aligned Comic Sans is coming, so are the little pictures on every slide. it’s not just perfectionism and hatred of emptiness, it’s something that brings me joy and a feeling of accomplishment in little things.

The colours came because, for years, I was teaching the same kids but in various languages, sometimes one lesson after another. French then Spanish. Same kids, same age so I decided that beyond the language itself I would make it more obvious for them. We were also changing moods. I took inspiration for respective flags and stuck with it every since.

On the one hand, I will admit that it used to be a drag somehow, at the beginning, but now it’s a reflex and one that allows me to be creative. Language-teaching is not always the most exciting of lessons. It’s hard and painful for all, as teachers, you are facing with kids who get impatient or demotivated very quickly, even in lessons where their native language is spoken, so imagine when everything is in another language. And when it’s Friday afternoon. So you have to constantly resist going the easy way and explain everything in your learners’ native language so you can save time and finish the unit in time for the test.

For the learners, especially teenagers, it can be a killer. Especially considering that a lot of school rationalise timetabling and put language lessons at once. It’s fine if only one is compulsory, better if optional (for the kids, not for the MFL teachers of course) but it’s torture for all when you have to teach Spanish to 30 kids for an hour and twenty minutes, get them out then get the same lot in again, just a couple of minutes later during which you switch to your German lesson. And there we go for another eighty minutes of hard work…

Beyond the mood, the need for a break and for clear, attractive visuals to keep their attention, it’s important to mention that I always have the highest expectations on everyone, regardless. I believe in the brain’s abilities to do and learn and that’s why I also like to somehow soften the blow with visually pleasing slides.

Not just games where they are learning a lot without realising it but also cute pictures of animals and funny cat memes. I love them, they love them, it makes them laugh between two exercises when I keep asking for even more of them. Put a cute kittens and you win over a classroom full of sullen girls.

However, before the kids, it’s for me. It is selfish before selfless for it allows me to be constantly creative which soothes my anxieties and when too tired to think of yet another totally new activity, I know I will always have the envy to google “cat dictionary” and add a little picture on the top right corner on an activity we did a couple of weeks ago.

Indeed, I will grant anyone that it is time-consuming to look through my hundreds of thousands of pictures on the Internet or my files to find exactly what I want and I know I have it somewhere or I know it can be found somewhere but this is something I enjoy doing very much.

“Ten minutes on a picture?!” I hear. No, ten minutes taking some time to let my perfectionist self relax and be inventive, be different. Only I, in the whole of England, would spend twenty minutes on Tumblr less than an hour before my lesson because I have decided I need a caption of Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls or Richard Hammond talking about the trout to simply illustrate the opening title of my Year 9 lesson on how to express sickness.

I could be calling parents, marking books or exams, I am told. Yes, I could but I hate it. That’s a part of the job I loathe beyond anything. Exams are fine but the books…I see them everyday when I go around checking on their work. The parents? Holy Mother of God, have mercy! Not them!

The ones you have to call are the self-righteous ones who hated school when they were little, think their child should be mentioned in the Bible as God or Satan, and believe you’re either a torturer or should do their job of teaching them manners. It says “MFL teacher” on my contract, thank you very much, not “nanny”.

I came into teaching to teach (duh!) because I like what I am teaching (duh!²): languages I want to convey it. It is hard to do so when restricted behind books mainly written by people who have close to no experience with children in a classroom setting such as university-teaching linguists or simply pedagogues. It is hard when you have a very restrictive timeline with yet another boring exam at the end where, in all languages, the writing text always starts with “You write to your penfriend about” something.

They don’t have penfriends and I want to have fun! I want my lesson to be pretty, attractive, colourful, animated. If I am not excited about showing someone what I did, I will not be able to open the door with a smile…Okay, I never smile unless actually amused but I do make jokes and love banter in the classroom and without the witty, always-on-point and creative visuals on the board, I would not be able to do so and set the evermore necessary positivity as, year in year out, teaching becomes harder by the week. The few classes where I have not been able to do it, I hate and I feel the work is far for the standards I expect of myself.

Whatever it is, the first golden rule of teaching is to enjoy yourself and it means whatever you want it to mean. I find pleasure in top-notched visuals, inventive games and the regular listening of songs and little activities around videos. Find yours. It’s doesn’t have to be massive, just a little something that’s for you every single time you teach. You have to take something out of it or you will grow to resent it beyond limits.

I have found that, even when it brings nothing for the kids as such, like a puppy with a mini basket ball to illustrate one sentence about playing sport, if it pleases you, it will please them. Because it is personal, that things will become your signature and if they always take everything for granted and don’t always acknowledge it at the time, they will come to miss it when moving on to the next teacher.

“Sir, I miss your cat memes! And the colours too. That was so nice and fun!” That sentence matters to me much more than “I think you should spend less time planning your lessons.”