Ignorance vs. Mysogyny

I hate the radio. I don’t really have a good reason for doing so, as far as reasons go, but my dislike for the medium has grown over the years. Whether it is something about hearing a person’s voice without seeing their face, or the general one-sidedness of the conversations – it’s hard to tell exactly what really grinds my gears about radio. Occasionally though, when left in the car in a situation which demands me hearing its incessant buzz, I can’t help myself but listen to it.

Today happened to present one of those situations. I was listening to a radio station in Moscow, with its main presenter live on air. He was the one who arguably saved the station from complete lack of listeners and restored ratings. The issue of the moment was the new laws which were going to come into effect in Russia concerning women and sexual harassment. The Russian government has been considering updating its definition of sexual harassment laws in order to limit deviant behavior, and make it easier for women to prosecute their abusers. Basically, the system is being updated to modern standards of decent behavior.

However this infamous presenter seemed to think otherwise. He claimed that in the animal kingdom, the females of a species chose their partners scrupulously, but the males didn’t care as long as they got it on eventually with the females. Not very sound science but here we go. From this flawed conclusion the radio presenter then declared that laws which help women in this way would limit ‘masculine’ behavior. As he put it, men would now have to wait for women to literally drop themselves into their laps because they would be walking on eggshells in fear of the new regulations.

Got it? Don’t worry, I don’t get it either. Let’s take a step back and look at his idiocy. It seems he is affronted by the government’s attempt to prevent his cave man instincts and make him respect women. Respecting women, ew right? Some of you might say, well if it’s an instinct that’s so ingrained in us and other animals seem to engage in this kind of behavior too, then why shouldn’t men of modern Russia be able to? First of all, just because lots of people or animals do something, doesn’t mean it’s right. Secondly, I’m sorry that he will no longer be able to grope women freely to prove his masculinity (is he compensating for something?), but I think women will be happy and feel safer.

It’s a shame that prominent voices of our generation mislead the public so – I don’t think I’ll be listening to the radio for a while now.

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Marry Me Quick

This is an actual conversation that I had today, presented in play format for your entertainment.

Me: 18 years old and too kind for her own good
Girl: 12 years old and refuses to acknowledge my personal space; she once came up to me claiming that she ‘was sooooo bored’ and from then on we apparently became best friends

Scene: private beach of a five-star hotel; it is always hot and sunny. We are sitting playing cards.

Me: So… How are you going to celebrate your birthday today?
Girl: I don’t know.

Her mother comes rushing up

Mother: come here, your brother’s calling!

She shoots up, scattering the cards about her, and screams into the phone

Girl: Hi! I thought you’d never call… I’m at the beach… With a friend… No, not that one… She’s 18 years old… Hey, no I can’t ask her that! (conversation goes on)

On returning

Me: So how’s your brother doing?
Girl: Great. You know –
Me: Yes?
Girl: He’s in St. Petersburg now, he’s much older than me, 23 years old so he has his own place there.
Me: Ugh uh.
Girl: you know he’s so sporty, he used to be a rugby player.
Me: I see, that’s nice.
Girl: well basically I’m going to show you a picture of him… And then I’m going to send him a picture of you.
Me: Why?
Girl: Well he’s looking for a wife and he said that if I find him one, he’ll pay me.

This has peaked my interest. Not only do I now feel like Mulan being set up, but I’ve come up with dozens of questions. Like how much is he going to pay her for this? Why doesn’t he do this himself? I know it’s not always easy gauging a response out of her so I’m about to rush the next question when she jumps in.

Girl: You know I’m so proud of him, he’s moved to St. Petersburg and now he’s a cashier at the biggest discount store there.

This is probably why his only hope of finding a wife is via a twelve year old. I’m curious about the answer to my next question though, so I press on. I know it’s going to be jaded.

Me: So why can’t he find a wife by himself?
Girl: He can. It’s just they’re all ugly and stupid. His last girlfriend looked like Michael Jackson with more feminine features. She had silicone everything. God, it was so gross!

I think she can’t see that if he’s the type to constantly attract ugly beasts, there may be something wrong with him and not just them. I know I should stop. After all this is pretty high on my ‘ridiculous experiences’ scale already, but curiosity my dears is the devil.

Me: So why now?
Girl: Yeah he really wants someone who can give birth to lots of kids. He wants kids but I’m not sure where he’s going to get the money to support them.

So here’s the deal. I’m being educated at one of England’s top universities. I’m enjoying a subject I like and I hope to go into a profession which corresponds to my area of study. You know, like everyone else I want to make something of myself. But hold the train I can give this up for a very attractive offer of becoming a birth machine! There is no need for education! There is no need to even speak, it seems! I just need to show up, give birth, and fade into the corner of a run-down apartment, while this cashier rules my life! What bliss would it be in those dawns to be alive! (to paraphrase a great) This is what women have dreamed of all their lives.

I cock my head at the girl (yes, I’m becoming condescending at this point), I smile.

Dear Agony Aunts,

You see, I study English Literature. I may not be certain of heading for big money in the future, but at least I chose what I want to do with my life, myself. I have reasonable conviction in what I do and most of all, I enjoy what I do.

I chose it myself because you see I do this thing. For those of you who like to be precise, let me just say I enjoy escapism. Yet when it comes down to the daily grind, the manifestation of this ‘escapism’ is a little bit more than what’s usually implied. It’s not that when I read something I go off into another world, and forget about what’s around me. I do that, too. But mainly I’ve started to lose touch with reality. I don’t notice current affairs, or don’t care enough to notice. I can block other people’s dull conversations, and sit there engrossed in the conversations that I’d encountered while reading a play. I can analyse mood, atmosphere and conflict between imaginary people, but I fail to do it in my own life with the people around me.

Before this post becomes too ME ME ME let me tell you of how I saw his escapism withering, twisting, and eventually disappearing for someone else:
Imagine a small child
Said small child happens to devour books about fantasy realms where dragons roam and mighty kings reign
The child begins to wonder, begins to enjoy the books as his imagination expands
What could be better?
Well, that’s just that. The child discovers that beyond the covers of his favorite novels lies a wasteland of the imagination, barren of the magic he has now been calling ‘Home’.
That child is now crying because he was not born under the right star, which would grant his life the adventure he so desperately seeks.

This isn’t a cautionary tale; it’s really a dilemma. I can’t take away his books, that would be inhumane, and perhaps even more debilitating. Yet I do not want to see him cry for fear of never truly being alive. So I turn to you.

Answer when you can.

Don’t blame fashion

One of the moments in my life, which I would never wish onto anyone else to experience, and still haunts me to this day, happened not so long ago. If only I hadn’t been unnaturally observant that day then nothing would’ve really changed. You see, I’m quite a self-involved, or really self-obsessed person, and I don’t tend to notice other’s problems until they slap me in the face.

I’d woken up that day worried. One of my close friends had been making constant excuses for not eating certain foods and discovering new allergies every day. At first she shunned fried foods and became a vegetarian; I thought it was a typical teen diet craze. To be honest I had more pressing issues on my mind, like handing in school work and preparing for university. Then she declared herself lactose intolerant; I sympathized as I had the same problem. Finally as days passed, she claimed to not be able to consume gluten. Her every meal was an unidentified concoction of vegetables or fruit, or was characteristically absent. I decided to tread carefully. This in essence meant looking worriedly at my friends but really doing nothing constructive.

I know that by this time you’re probably exasperated with me that I didn’t do anything. After all it’s not like this happened in a flash, I had weeks to correct the situation. You’re right, I was wrong, but I was also horrendously spineless and willing to believe that ‘adults’ would swoop in at the right moment and save the day.

A few days on, when her diet would have started taking a toll, I walked into her room to get her for an event. What I saw were her spine and ribs jutting out of her skin, seemingly on the verge of ripping it. I hastily shut the door and grabbed at the rough brick wall to steady myself. My unwillingness to face the reality of her illness had finally hit home.

Now who do I really blame for what happened to her? Certainly not fashion. It would be disrespectful to say, that some walking human hangers were the deciding factor in her bout of self-destruction. In this case I think it was more an issue of self-control. Mounting academic pressure and the stress it caused, provoked her to grasp at the only element of her life which she could have a certain impact on. I am not a psychologist, and as it turned out I wasn’t a very observant friend, so I couldn’t know for certain. I just know now that it doesn’t boil down to simple one-word answers when it comes to things like this. Perhaps not even she knows for sure what really was the trigger.

Feminism and Oxford banalities

I haven’t written anything of substance for a while, that is true. But I think I’ve finally found something to write about.

The age-old question of feminism. Or rather whether a woman should be a feminist. I don’t think she should. Don’t be a feminist for all I care. After all so many people have opinions on the subject and what it means to be a feminist, that my statement could mean completely different things to completely different people.

As a vivid example I present to you this little anecdote:
In a debating session hosted by Oxford University, which I had watched online, where they discussed topical and controversial issues – the question of feminism eventually reared its bold head and demanded to be addressed. A woman, obviously assuming that it was her duty to slay the beast of feminism single-handedly, proudly proclaimed that she was not a feminist because she loved men. She loved her husband and that was what had ripped her from the carnivorous jaws of feminism before it was too late and they would have swallowed her whole. Her expression suggested that she pitied and at the same time felt above those who were arguing against her. Basked in her self-righteousness, she eyed them, daring to hide their man-hating ways any longer. She’d looked around triumphantly, certain that her trite witticism would settle the question forever.

I for one was still riddled with how one could relate one half of her statement to the other, but her audience cheered at this and seemed to nod their heads in agreement. It was equally certain for every Oxford student present there that yes, if one loves men, one cannot be a feminist.

Here’s my two cents, in direct address to this woman:
Feminism is in no way obsessed with men. In fact women can do without them very well, thank you very much. That’s the whole point. Feminism isn’t about hating men or loving men – you do what you want to do about them, it’s really all about focusing on women and their concerns. For once.

DISCLAIMER: All views are my own and in no way do I claim to be an expert on the issue. However I do love a good debate, so any criticism is very welcome.

We by Yevgeniy Zamyatin

‘There is no final one; revolutions are infinite.’
Imagine a world where the ultimate happiness is non-freedom and you can fathom the core of this extraordinary work of dystopian literature. In the beginning there seems to be a myriad of reasonable argument for such a development, especially as our Number hero wanders the peaceful sunny streets under the watchful eye of the Well- Doer. In turn, as if a giant organism, each cell mechanically follows a set of instructions. There is no longer an I but the frightening mechanism of a We.
However as our hero falls in love, and in truth he is a hero for he breaks through his inherent prejudices in order to be with a rebellious woman, he develops a soul. Treating this new acquisition as an illness does not lead him far and he finds himself sheltering its existence from the prying State. From then on he begins to doubt and by doing so questions the very foundations of the United State.
This novel is a masterpiece, with its force apparent from the outset. If you only consider that it is still banned within Russia then you can see how badly these parallels reminded the leaders of the then USSR of their rule.
I can only hope that the ‘perfection’ that is seen among the inhabitants enclosed by the Green Wall can never be attained by our society. I believe that the sole cure from such an occurrence could only be the spreading of this novel throughout the world and a deeper understanding of our reality. Only then can the revolution not be left up to chance but to a conscious will.