I am unpatriotic whore, apparently.

The first time my “whoring” became apparent to me was 15 years ago when my parents invited a couple of friends over. The discussion at the table, at which I was expected to stay, somehow ended up on my speaking English on the Internet: have status in English on MSN chat for instance, taking active part in English-speaking forums about footballers I fancied and more broadly on my listening to practically only English.

The husband had objections and I can’t recall exactly how it came to that but I said: “Using English is also easier to communicate and look for things you need.” To which he replies “So you are prostituting yourself.” He had the idea that my speaking English on the Internet instead of sticking to French, and especially using English when French could be used (i.e. on MSN with some of my French friends) was like a prostitute who can’t be bothered to get a proper job to make a living. She instead opens her legs because she is certain to get the money and akin to her, I was willingly selling out my culture, myself, my identity to get what I want instead of sticking to my language, no matter whom I was interacting with, because it is easier that way. I should be working hard to establish myself as I am but instead I was sleeping with the boss to get there.

As I was mentioning this very conversation to a friend, she bounced back on my use of English, something I never used with her, but when she fathomed the scale of my willingness to learn it, speak it and use it, she simply asked “Why do you want to lose your mother tongue?” For her, actively learning and enjoying the speaking of another language to which I had no family ties whatsoever was an act of forsaking my own language. In her mind, I couldn’t have both. One was going to take over. It wasn’t about whoring myself to get it easy anymore but willingly rejecting my whole self for unfathomable reasons.

The questioning of my patriotism came with another former friend. “Former” because there are certain things I only take from foes, not friends. Again, we were on the subject of my listening to almost exclusively English-speaking music. She was going through my CD collections – no MP3 players at the time – and ruing the absence of French but for a couple of artists out of a 100 or so. She asked why and my answer prompted her to tell me I was “unpatriotic”. I was buying music, giving money to some strangers that are the very reason why French musicians struggle. I was part of the problem regarding the suffocation of anything native in the face of the American music industry. More, I was betraying my culture when I could be expanding it. I was serving the enemy.

I have been wondering why these people reacted as they did for the past 15 years. Not that it’s the first or only time I have been getting that kind of remarks but they usually come from people who call themselves “proud, real French”. The either country-side-living or poorly-educated or highly nationalistic person who, for various reasons, reject anything foreign on various degrees of violence and easily buy into the American invasion. All the while never going to a single French movie because they are “boring”…

I get that at work at the moment. For the first time, I am not in teaching languages but took a job at a supermarket because the next country I want to move to is very expensive so I need massive savings, and I am surrounded by people who don’t speak English. When I do, even and mostly to myself, most of them have this knee-jerk rejection of it. Fear of someone who knows more? Feeling of exclusion? Both I think.

However, those three people aforementioned belong to a type of population I know very well, due to my travelling and living abroad: the bi-nationals. The man is Franco-German, the former friend was Franco-Vietnamese and the other is French but both her parents are Argentinians who moved to France as teenagers.

Most bi-nationals I know embrace both their cultures, languages and the question of identity is one that resolved itself easily: I am a citizen of the world. I am a human being. Borders are irrelevant, languages are relevant in that they open doors and help you in life. If nationalities are two boxes on paper, they are endless opportunities in real life. A former colleague whose mother is Jamaican and father French, because born in Guadeloupe, was once asked the usual question: “What do you prefer most? Being French or Jamaican?” She replied that this type of questions was akin to asking: “Who’s your favourite, your dad or your mum?” This is irrelevant and ignorant.

A bi-national will appreciate and critique their culture equally but for very different reasons and the questions of identity, culture and belonging is a open pick & mix buffet. You take what you like in whichever side you wish. For instance, when talking about homosexuality, she said she was more French because France embraces same-sex marriage but when it comes to race issues, she was more Jamaican because, unlike in France, she was not “black” in Jamaica, just a normal person.

Nevertheless, not all bi-nationals are like that, as shown by the people who called me a prostitute who was unpatriotically forsaking my whole heritage for something I had no reason to embrace. They belong to the bi-nationals for whom the question of identity has been a black or white issue and they were faced with choosing sides for a variety of reasons so it took me to know them to try and understand their apparent rejection of anything but France and French, although they should be the expression of multiculturalism.

The husband, for instance, was born from a German father and a French mother. First, as a child whose father is the foreigner, he spoke little German. It’s something I noticed amongst all my friends, either parents or children in multicultural families: if the mother is the foreigner, the child will more likely be bilingual and open to both his heritages. Fathers tend to speak their native language less for reasons I still need to explore. So he grew up speaking just a bit of both languages and when his father left his mother, the conflict of love became one of cultures. In the rejection of his father, it’s also Germany and everything that comes with it he forsook. Hence the name-calling: for him, my tending to another culture is abhorrent, a betrayal to France who “gave birth to and nurture me”. He chose France and French because, in his mind, they are family and one cannot belong to two families. I was indeed just a whore, trying to please some stranger culture by overly speaking its language because I had concluded that the English family was more profitable.

The former friend has both Vietnamese parents, she spoke, ate, drank, sang, read, danced Vietnamese culture but this was the privacy of her home. Outside, casual racism based on her looking Asian, and therefore being “Chinese” – because, of course, all Asians are Chinese – led her to work extra hard to integrate to France and become she could never look “it”, she would forever act and sound it. She therefore ended up internalising extreme ideas as to what makes a good French person and a bad one. I was the bad one, she was the good one because I embraced English culture when I should have done what she has always been told to do and eventually did: solely embrace French culture and eventually leave the rest behind. I remember her saying she was fighting with her parents because she would not marry a man from Southeast Asia, and she refused to carry on with learning Vietnamese. She was the product of our idea of assimilation of immigrants centered on the concept of leaving your roots behind altogether in order to become someone else, someone new, someone fitting for the role, someone who would not think twice if the day of confrontation with your ancestry would come. You would defend France because you have become French through steps I was overlooking. Maybe because I had the privilege of being French by ancestry…

The second one was the same somehow, except she only took in the words, not the outrageous nationalism needed to compensate others’ racism based on her looks because her family is of Spanish descent. The parents spoke perfect French after 30 years in France. they had jobs, they owned a house, she was a high-achiever at school. If the name was Spanish, they were nothing but fully integrated into the French society. The perfect immigrants, some would say. “You would not know they are not French”

If the parents spoke Spanish to each other, they spoke French to their daughters. If she enjoyed her Argentinian heritage through music and dancing, she however had this idea of having to make a choice between two options. I think it comes again from the idea of opportunities in life. Being as French as possible had probably been carved into her head by her parents so to ensure she had the best chances but it also meant she couldn’t possibly understand that my love of English was not making me any less French than I am, I was just expanding my horizon as wide as her had always been on the international scale.

I have now become very wary of these types of bi-nationals who, for reasons usually not fully understood by them, are overly patriotic and judgmental when it comes to embracing more than one culture. French politics is a perfect example with people like Sarkozy (Hungary) and Manuel Valls (Spain) who were sometimes as damning of social, cultural diversity and foreigners as the far-right can be. For me, this is one of the far-right’s and racism’s greatest victory: to have made some immigrants and their children willingly reject their own culture, reject multiculturalism as fake and treason to the soil you live on, point out variety as source of a problem instead of a solution.

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Objectification: How do you cope?

I have been objectified. It’s one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced and now I wonder: how can women put up with this?

It all started as a little personal project I decided to undertake for my own pleasure first. I take black and white pictures of the same thing on various backgrounds representing various everyday tasks such as shopping, DIY, gardening, teaching, cooking, baking…

The process is quite a long one because I want all the pictures to be framed the same way but as I am using my phone from above, I have no preview of what I am photographing until I see it so I tend to take up to 20 pictures every time. I then compare it with the original one before I edit it to black and white.

After about a dozen of them, I decided to share them on social media at a rate of once/week so I have time to work on new ideas and keep the flow running steadily. However, now, I don’t want to anymore, because the first reactions I received were men admitting getting off on the pictures and asking for more…now! Two of them were actually begging. I removed the comments and block them but the damage was done.

There is no nudity involved whatsoever. I would understand their reactions, had I started posting pictures the likes of Kyle Krieger’s but the most you can see of me is a bit of my ankles. The rest is the main subject, not sexual, on backgrounds that, as I said, are nothing but common: a watering can and a shovel, some fruits and groceries next to a shopping bag…For me, it is some kind of art on which I spend a lot of time. I guess the point of art is to trigger feelings and emotions but never, even for a second have I thought it could be seen as remotely arousing or sexual.

I know we live in a society that sexualises everything. A woman cannot breastfeed anymore without half the people out there being outraged as this “disgusting display of open porn”. Still I don’t understand how women manage to carry on when they are subjected to this on a daily basis.

So I asked my mother, who I know is the subject of everyday objectification by men just because of her looks, and she said the ‘Monica moment’ in Friends is normal for women. The moment where she is asked to make a meal as part of an interview to work as a chef. The owner is a downright pervert who finds women working with dirty hands and food arousing and has no boundaries when it comes to turning Monica into an object for his own pleasure.

She told me everything you do, are, say, the way you behave will be subject of sexual objectification by someone somewhere…Suddenly, I can’t shift that vision of Richard in Ally McBeal who finds the flesh under women’s neck or arms arousing. I found it cringe-worthy at the best of time. Now I understand the intended comical effects and sociological reflection, the fact that it says more about him and society than it does about women but the cringe lingers.

Akin to Monica and Richard’s objects of desire, you are just being you with no ulterior motives. You are living your life as you do and suddenly it hits you in the face: that guy who stares at you, the one who makes constant comments, the ones who go as far as to try and touch you as if you were nothing but the button to their hormone switch.

Now that it happened to me, not only do I feel violated and discouraged to post more material, which I enjoy making, but I can’t help but thinking that maybe my being overweight or speaking with an accent or even the clothes and perfumes I wear are as many hormone switches to some people out there. They are not all perverts for they obviously know how to keep it for themselves but my view of the world has changed and my question stood: How do women cope?

My mother just replied: You just live your life. Yes, you know it’s there, everyday, lurking behind you. So you try to understand, you rationalise it, you find it disgusting anyway so you fake it until you are with your peers and can finally let out all your anger and disgust because what alse can you do? Never go out anymore? Hide yourself? Useless! Some men find inaccessible women to be a sexual fantasy anyway… (The growing trend of “Arabic women in burqa having sex” on the Internet proves her point.)

The fact is: there will always be someone who finds something sexual: high heels, pearl necklaces, pregnancy…; suits, beards, glasses, nerds…That’s not the problem, desire is a natural urge. The issue is perversion: the lacking of that social skill that makes you fathom where the boundaries are between your urges and how they should manifest in everyday life. In that case, the fact that you don’t have to openly express every single one of them every single time.

What I have come to learn with this very innocent series of pictures is that when it comes to open and proud objectification, there is no winner, just people who think it’s their right to act up on their urges. I also learn to once again rely on women to find a way out of and find the strength to carry on so I will post more pictures and carry on blocking the ones who can keep their boners out of their trousers because at the end, it’s about me, not them.

A teacher’s words: Respecting students’ choices

As a teacher, you learn constantly from a lot of people about how to do your job but amongst the biggest inspirations regarding the Dos and Donts are your own teachers when you were younger. One thing I learnt from a PE teacher I had throughout my lycée years, so 16-18 years old, was to respect pupils/students’ choices when it comes to major decisions, even, and especially, when you would disagree with them.

I was 17 and that was the final year before university, the one that can only be cleared if you pass the Baccalauréat, which is terribly difficult and daunting in France. That was the first day of PE (or sports) for the senoir years – Terminales – and all of us were to be sorted in three groups so the on-going examination could start. You never sit a PE exam, what you do throughout the year will be your final grade.

So we were offered three options:
1. Swimming/Basketball/Athletics.
2. Gymnastics/Volley ball / Badminton.
3.Volley ball / Basketball / Swimming.

As I said, how you are going to fare during the three trimesters at each sport is going to determine your final mark and the extent to which the door to university is open. Having a terribly weak spot in Maths, I was not going to risk it so I put myself in Group 2 because I used to be a gymnast, I love volley ball and have a killing serve, and am unbeatable at badminton.

However, Group 2 found itself overflowing. The teachers needed an evenly spread number of students in each group, about 30, and we were 45 in Group 2. I guess the choices of sport were poor and, frankly, as teenagers, we pretty much all wanted to avoid the pool at all costs for it meant tiny speedos et al… So there we went for 20 minutes of three teachers standing in front of their seating groups, with Group 1 particularly empty, trying to convince almost a third of Group 2 to join the others.

Some are convinced, stand and go sit on the opposite corners. I don’t really pay attention that we are coming close to 30 in my group until my name echoes in the building and the PE teacher I had the past two years singles me out so I would switch. She knows I am obedient, quiet and would rather die than make a fuss but I refuse. She then proceeds to tell I am “too fat for gymnastics”…In front the whole year and I am “good at basketball”.

I am fuming. I have been struggling with my weight for over 7 years, secondary school was five years of endless bullying that drove close to suicide countless times and during my lycée years, I was stubbornly refusing to eat anything during the day and would only eat in the evening.

But I keep it down and refuse, again. She insists, piling up on the insults and spreading my whole performance sheet of the last two years for everyone to hear and which turns out to be highly erroneous. This goes for a couple of minutes until I stand up in front of the whole assembly, boiling, my hands shaking, clenched into fists so it doesn’t show and I tell her she is wrong.

I am 1m76 tall, I say, which doesn’t not bode well for basketball, a sport I absolutely loathe and being forced to play it every single year since primary school has not helped. I find the ball too big, too hard, the rules are inexplicably complicated and I have never managed to actually net a single ball in my life. As far athletics, I walk faster than I run. I need 20 minutes to walk my 3.2 km to school every day morning then evening but still require almost 50 minutes for the same distance when running.

She retaliates with javelin and discus in which I am indeed quite good but she can’t commit to them being as important as all the running we will have to do. As for swimming, I tell her she should know I can’t do it after teaching me for the past two years. Indeed, the chemical in the pool and the endless diving we have to do trigger debilitating ear infections and cause all the tiny blood vessels in eyes to burst. There is no discomfort in terms of vision but I do look like I am coming from the Village of the Damned. My eyes are entirely red with blood except for the iris and it takes weeks to recede. On other hand, she does know I was a gymnast and I have always been top of the class in volley ball and badminton.

She doesn’t give up so I go on the attack and tell her this is my exams, my future, my decision to take, not hers. She actually made those two first points very clear before presenting the groups. I know why I am being singled out, because she assumed I would bow and do as said but this is the most important exam of my life. Would she to overrule me, I will go the school authorities, if not enough the Rectorat de Versailles, which rules over every academic questions in the west of Paris, to get my way. It’s about me, not about the school’s poor decisions in setting up the options and limiting the numbers.

It’s been 16 years, half of my life ago, and I remember every word I said, the stunt silence in the room in the face of someone who has never caused any trouble and is now standing up to a his teacher. The silence felt endless.

We stare at each other. Like with my dogs, I will not let go until she lets go. She eventually does, looks at her two colleagues and signals for me to sit down in a resigned manner. Group 2 remained with 34. Come to think of it, there seemed to be a general feeling that I was talking sense and some would follow my lead so the case needed to be closed asap.

As a teacher today, I am still using that day to know how to behave when my students are facing my life-altering choices: GCSEs, A-Levels, university pick…even adults when deciding whether to sit an exam or not. Why? Because I am the one who makes the final call for I sign the papers or am the link between the hierarchy / exam boards and the student so I try to be everything that PE teacher wasn’t that day.

What I wanted from this teacher was for her to realise that my choice was not whimsical. I didn’t sit on the part of room assigned to Group 2 because I followed my friend or I wanted to avoid something. I chose because I listened to the options and I went for what I knew would benefit me the most. I chose excellence before anything else but she disputed that in the worst possible way. I would have accepted her trying to understand my motives behind my decision but she didn’t. Maybe because of my age or because she didn’t care about me, which is worst as a teacher, she just flatly countered me, called me fat in front of a room full of teenagers and relentlessly picked on me until I had to threaten her.

I also wanted her to realise there was a much bigger question behind getting an even number of students in each group: our future. At the end of the year, every single of the 14 or 15 subjects I had to sit for my Baccalauréat mattered towards the end grade and, as we were told constantly, this was our responsibility to ensure we succeeded. We were not children anymore, school was not compulsory anymore at our age so teachers were there simply to teach us and we were there to ensure to get and make the best out of it. All of that was irrelevant to her: she needed numbers to match her administrative expectations.  At the time, I felt she could have made the case for a bigger group because of badly chosen options and learn from it. Today, I am sure of it because I experienced it.

Nowadays, if there is a numerus closus or an obligation for me to ensure the best results and therefore the best candidates for any kind of selection process, and if I am in disagreement or have my doubts regarding the choice of X or Y: I ask questions about choices but never question them as such. I interview the ones I think would struggle considering the present data so I can give them the information I have, the conclusions I drew from them so I can assess their motivation for I know someone motivated and willing can achieve greater than someone who might be better to begin with but takes their talent for granted. And I do that privately, one to one or with parents and selected teachers because they lead in the subjects in questions, not name and shame in public.

At the end, I was vindicated with a reasonable 10/20 in gymnastics, a 16/20 in volley ball and a 18/20 in badminton. That’s a overall of 14.5/20 in PE.

Casual racism: Anne-Marie Morris

The N bomb was dropped once again, this by a Conservative MP in the UK, Anne-Marie Morris and there are two things I want to address.

First, she apologised for the “offence caused.” The problem is not the offence caused, it’s the casual racism. Apologising for the offence puts the spotlight on the offended as if what they took out of it her using the N-word was not how it was intended in the first place. She is a politician, and not a novice, she was taking part in a debate about Brexit so she knows about the power of words and that word is not ‘offensive’, it is plainly and simply racist.

Second, she said it was said “unintentionally” and to me that speaks volume. The N-word is so deeply embedded in her everyday vocabulary that it pops up like an expletive when you hurt yourself. Of course, you can have these moments when for whatever reasons, you say something really bad but then you react at once: apologise, try to make it right, show shame…It happens.

However, Anne-Maria Morris didn’t even realise she said it. She used the N-word and only after people pointed it out, did she acknowledge it. That’s how deeply normal that use of the N-word is to her – or how ill-conceived her pride is in refusing to be human and grovel on the spot. This is casual racism at its worst – or best, depending whence you look. It’s normal, it’s something that you do so often, you don’t even pay attention to it anymore. Like men calling every woman who disagree with them “Slut!” only to appear contrite if told so.

Now there are calls for her to step down, for the Tories to take actions. As an individual, I want people like that to eventually be educated out of such language so yes, I want her remove but politicians are here to represent their constituents so that’s for them to decide whether her casual racism is akin to theirs or if she has betrayed what they believe in.

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace.

Handsome Harry has a problem: he hates belonging to the most privileged people in the world and says no Windsors currently wants to be king so now let’s have a quick look at the terrible fate that awaits him and his kin.

Being the monarch is a tough job, but someone has to do it, even if reluctantly. In a magazine interview, Prince Harry has suggested that none of the royal family actually wants the throne.

‘Tough job.” There are a lot of tough jobs out there: teaching, working in A&E, driving a bus, collecting bins, cleaning the streets and being a King apparently. Although, I highly doubt those jobs pay over £3 million every month like being a King does. I can’t speak for other professions, but as a teacher, I can expect a good £1.400/month if I take on some responsibilities in addition to my teaching. And that’s a good salary!

Yes the “tough job” Harry is describing currently pays about £40 million/year and, unlike the rest of the good working people of England in their tough job, the Windsors are in line for a raise of £2.8 million/year which adds to a 57% pay rise since 2012. So let’s admit the £40M stand, that’s £3.3 million/month. For the rest of the tough jobs, it’s bleak I am afraid but let’s try to empathise with the fate of the royal family.

Let’s not forget that the Windors’ tough job comes with free accommodation in the centre of London and a myriad of palaces paid off and maintained by the taxpayers. Weddings needn’t be paid for, nor need your birthdays or any other major life events for that matter. You are provided with hundreds of personal servant as well as bodyguards who parade at great expense everyday, a plethora of carriages – some in pure gold and a fleet of cars so large that even your crown has its own.

The question then begs: why? Why do they get to be given so much? What does the tough job involve to come with such perks, money and yet be such a drag?

“We are involved in modernising the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people,” he said.

My, that modernisation must be a heck of a job, whatever that means in actual fact. Marrying “commoners”, perhaps? That’s modern, ain’t it? No, that’s just because all your parents and grand-parents are cousins and you desperately need to avoid the fate of the Habsburgs or yet another inbreeding-related endemic like hemophilia and mental health issues that came after Queen Victoria and King Christian IX decided they wanted the whole of Europe’s rulers to be their grand-children.

So is it having a beard and playing football with kids in Africa – between two safaris, a hunting trip and some strip snooker in Las Vegas? Charity doesn’t pay (ask Doctors Without Borders), hunting is archaic, and the playing naked and drunk in Vegas is only seen as ‘modern’ by penniless chavs on their quite unenjoyable stag night.

Maybe I am being mistaken on what he means by modernising the monarchy but I don’t see why it justifies a rent-free life at Kensington or Buckingham Palace in addition to the 3.3 millions pounds you get every single month.

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

First, his father begs to differ.

Second, “we will carry our duties”, yes you will! That’s we pay you for so if we say “Dance monkey!”, you dance and you don’t get upset because comes to think about it, you have no other purpose whatsoever. Your tough job is not a job, it’s birth right that some people in a far past and who are as much related to you as to me gave themselves after they actually served a purpose. Their life was Games of Throne without the dragons. Whereas yours is a apology of privilege-born blasé laziness. Your academic degrees were given to you, your record in the army is anything but grand and the only reason why you can afford to do so much charity work is because your nan is the Queen so she gets paid £3.3 million/month.

Now, if you really do resent the “tough job” to the extent of going public with it, then remove yourself from the line of succession, give up your privileges, give the money back and live a normal life. But do not publicly go to tell the rest of us who struggle to meet ends and must go by in the shittiest jobs that you don’t want to be something you will be if and when your father, brother, nephew and niece were to die.

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace: do not lead your people to actually ponder a world where you don’t exist and where you have no use, for you will be surprised of how extremely livable life is without tending and pandering to the most outrageously over-privileged people the Earth has ever accommodated.

Your tough job…I’ll do it! Let’s swap. Not for a day but forever. I’ll give the 10-, 12-, 15-hour working days, the screaming kids, the insulting parents, the down-looking management and the pay squeeze and you give me the free money, the palaces, the never-ending holidays, the cooks, the fitness trainers, the countless servants and I will do the “tough job”. For that money, for that comfort in life, I will sit on that throne and smile until my teeth come off and the best dentist that ever that was gives me new ones…for free.

As an atheist, I will even graciously bow and blow smoke up the Archbishop of Canterbury’s arse if asked. I’ll do anything so my future can look as worry-free, secured and bright as yours looks everyday. I will do your tough job, Your Highness. Anything, so the only three things I can worry about is: my hair falling, the colour of my ties and who I am dating that doesn’t draw too much of my nan’s wrath.

And, my Lord, I think you’ll find millions of people would do your tough job if they could considering the life it comes with. I am not saying we would forever like it but for £3.3 million/month, I’ll do it for a couple of years then, once I am rich beyond my dreams, I’ll pass it on to the next volunteer and so on and so forth.

Maybe that’s it, maybe that’s modern monarchy.

 

Just sayin’ – You pervs!

A young teenage girl, let’s say she’s 12 or 13, is walking past you during a hot day wearing short shorts. You then hurry to tell the people with whom you are how inappropriate it is for her to wear something “so revealing” when she is “that young”. You can “almost see her arse.”

Now, let me be clear, man or woman: akin to people who think women who breastfeed should hide, the problem is not with her but with you and only you. For you sadly belong to those people who cannot help but see sex everywhere. In the bare breast of a mother as well as in the thighs of a 12 year-old girl.

Solution? Spent less time shaming young girls because you see them as nothing but sexual lumps of flesh who should cover themselves more in the name of decency. “I wouldn’t let my daughter wear this!” All the while shaming Muslim women for wearing too much. And work on yourself. What you will find is not going to be appealing but deal with it!