Category Archives: Gender Questions

WHERE’S THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT GONE THIS YEAR?

The Trump has stolen Christmas!

It’s down to the wire with sending those Christmas cards, shopping for presents and decorating the tree. But why can’t I get into the seasonal spirit this year?

Never fear, I do intend to tell you why.

For the first time since 2000, I was in the US for the election. Back then it was bad enough. I was relieved to hear, as my plane lifted off for Germany, that the winner of the popular vote, Al Gore, had been declared president. Upon arrival in Frankfurt, George W. Bush was suddenly president. We all know how well those eight years went.

This time round, I was, during the course of the primaries and the election campaign, so appalled by DJ Trump’s campaign that I took a step unprecedented for me. I registered to vote in my home state of New York, a place I hadn’t lived since 1972. Over my adult lifetime in Germany, I have never felt a need to vote in US elections. The issues were mainly American; I did not know about them, I lived in a place beyond their relevance and was content to leave the choices up to the locals.

But as this election cycle progressed,  I was reminded of the undeniable fact that US foreign policy runs the world – even though American election campaigns cannot be won on foreign affairs issues! It seem to me that a good deal of at least the Western world should have a vote in a choice far too significant to be limited to the US populace. Alas, that will never happen. So I took up the gauntlet to play the minuscule role allotted me and voted for Hillary Clinton.

Again, as the campaign rolled on, it became increasingly evident that Trump did not possess the personality, judgement or even the interest in doing the job that would qualify him to govern a county that loves to call itself the greatest on earth. The thought of his winning was just too ridiculous to seriously believe it could happen.

But happen it did. And in N Jersey I witnessed up close all the coverage following it, all the flabbergasted pundits who said it couldn’t/wouldn’t and above all shouldn’t happen. It was addicting, keeping up with the latest news on T’s atrocious appointments and nominations, on his Tweets that revealed a wild-west gun-slinger shooting from the hip with nary a thought of consequences. It was a heady feeling seeing protests across the country of Americans  peacefully (in the main), declaring that T was #NOT MY PRESIDENT.

BUT this was the man the country had chosen. Well, at least the 56 % who went to the polls. Well, of them 46.1 % who voted for him. Pitted against the 48.2 % who voted for Hillary Clinton (also-rans clocked in with 5.7 %). Clinton’s lead in the popular vote continues to rise. And now as it is almost final, she has 2.86 million more votes than he does. Doesn’t that work out to be somewhat less than a quarter of the population voting for him? Doesn’t it make you wonder what would happen if everybody voted? (BTW in Australia voting is a legal requirement. You will be fined if you don’t do your patriotic duty.)

Who knew that it really takes this long to count all the ballots. Who knew that the 50 States each has its own version of outdated polling equipment leaving them wide open for rigging the count.

Not to mention the restrictions put on the Right to Vote Act that barred millions of willing voters from casting their ballots.

T keeps calling his win a historic landslide. Hmm, lots of adjectives come to mind to describe his “win”, but not that.

With far too many anomalies to be classified as an election as usual, it is impossible to return to the routine order of the day. We now know that the Russians, led by their top KGB agent Vladimir Putin, interfered with the process via cyper-hacking. Of course, the FBI did their best to stir up the idiotic email issue – again – a few days before the election – which turned out to be unfounded as well as completely politically motivated.

I could go on till Hell freezes over about what stinks in this election. And most of you reading my post will know this already. But please bear with me while I make a few modest suggestions:

  1. Something must be done about the electoral college system. Either get rid of it or give the states the number of electors that truly represents their population. Go to http://www.nationalpopularvote.com to find out about what is already afoot to circumvent the necessity of a constitutional amendment to neutralize the college.
  2. Update your polling stations with machines that work, cannot be manipulated and can actually be examined for correct results.
  3. Improve the teaching of social studies, history and ethics in the schools so that children can learn how to be good citizens, how to respect the rights of others with disabilities and different skin colors, religions and sexual orientations. Make sure you have teachers capable of fulfilling this extremely important mission! If I recall correctly, in the US the separation of Church and State is still anchored in the constitution. Schools are not a venue for teaching creationism or white supremacy.
  4. Political correctness has had some really bad press. Rethink why this sometimes awkward principle is so vital in today’s United States and in the world as a whole. It’s all about:

    RESPECTING THE DIFFERENCES OF OTHERS!

Which brings me back to our President-Elect who shows very little regard for anyone other than Number 1. He mocks people who are different; he is actively supporting racism by his choice of staff and cabinet, elevating unqualified people who bring with them from the get-go plenty of their very own conflicts of interests. His, of course, he dismisses as his divine right.

(BTW the US President is not a deity, unlike Roman Emperors of yore.)

It would be too much to hope that tomorrow the Electoral College will be self-confident enough to stop Trump’s march to the Oval Office. That being so, I see many rocky roads before us. And I see the time, effort and resources that should be used to solve the nation’s urgent problems, being wasted in the next couple of years to impeach this travesty of a president.

He is not my President and never will be. I am ashamed to have to admit that I am an American citizen.

With all of these thoughts in my head, I just can’t muster much enthusiasm for celebrating Christmas this year.

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Filed under civil rights, Disasters, Gender Questions, human rights, Politics, US Election 2016

OUTSIDERS in London

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The past weeks have been full of travel, feeding me with new impulses and images to write about. Since I live in a cow village, it doesn’t hurt to escape natural habitat upon occasion and taste the big wide world out there, especially the kind found in a metropolis that seethes with humanity and its associated creativity. Unfortunately, travel also involves returning home to find no one has done my work. Although the weeds in my garden are still making faces at me, I’m ignoring them. I can just about peer over the mounds on my desk and see my way clear to share with you an experience I had while in London in early May.

Before we visited the exhibition “Inventing Impressionism” at the National Gallery, my husband suggested we have a look in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a church located adjacent to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. In all our many years, first living in and then visiting London, we had never been inside. After admiring the Greek Revival architecture of the interior, we descended to the crypt, now a café and exhibition space.

A photo exhibition by Milan Svanderlik, titled Outsiders in London, was on display and we had the incredible luck of visiting on a day when the photographer was present in the flesh. We were admiring his portraits and reading the stories about the subjects when Mr. Svanderlik approached us for a chat.

He spoke the excellent if accented English of one not native-born but long resident in Britain. Originally from Northern Bohemia, Mr Svanderlik had lived in Yugoslavia and Switzerland before settling in London forty years ago. His background alone gives him an excellent head start for studying outsiders.

Mr Svanderlik is a man who not only photographs interesting-looking subjects but is also deeply interested in their stories. Each portrait was accompanied by a brief introduction to that person. And each person had a history as an outsider, whether due to disability, race, nationality, beliefs or sexual orientation. Some had been able, early in their lives, to make a virtue of their outsider status, while others suffered greatly before owning up to it and accepting who they were.

   Margaret Dawn Pepper, formerly Maurice David Pepper

 

 

Rabbi Ahron Leib Cohen, anti-Zionist

Henry Fraser, quadriplegic, with his bother Will

In our conversation with him, Mr Svanderlik shared more information about his project in general and his subjects in particular. Some of them had been able not only to accept but also use their  situation as outsiders to excel in their fields. Indeed, often what made them outsiders was exactly what was needed to achieve excellence.

It made me think about the dichotomy of the human condition. In most cases, a person feels a need to belong, whether to a family, a tribe, a political party, a profession, etc. Not being accepted in any of these social structures because of something about us that the crowd cannot identify with, can lead to severe problems for an individual.

And yet, don’t many of us want to stand out in this densely populated world? We seek recognition for our talents and achievements. We don’t want to disappear in the masses of mankind. But of course, we desire the status of outsider, not as a stigma but as a badge of quality.

The people chosen by Milan Svanderlik have transformed their otherness into a virtue, and in many cases are affecting the lives of those around them in most positive ways. For outsiders who have yet to find a way to cope with their otherness, these life stories may just offer help.

Although Milan Svanderlik’s exhibition at St. Martin-in-the-Fields has finished, you can see his work and read the poignant stories about his Outsiders at: http://www.outsidersinlondon.org

All portraits appear with the kind permission of Milan Svanderlik, holder of the copyright.         (The photo of St. Martin’s is my very own pathetic tourist shot.)

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Filed under Cities, civil rights, Gender Questions, Great Britain

“Make Me a German” on the BBC

Last night I watched the third and final episode of BBC2’s  Germany series. After dealing with German cars (a German’s favorite child) and then German cooking, they got down to brass tacks: Why is Germany more successful than Britain?

To find the answer they sent Justin and Bee Rowlatt and two of their children to Nuremberg to live for two weeks as Germans live. All fine so far. Except two weeks is no where near long enough to make anything but superficial generalizations. For Justin, a BBC journalist who took up a job in a pencil factory, it seemed to be a great adventure. He investigated what makes a German worker more efficient and more satisfied than a Brit.

For Bee, stuck at home with her two youngest children, it seemed a drag. I’ve just read about her on her blog (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/posts/Make-Me-A-German) and although she is half German, she had never lived there. She reckoned she was “predisposed” to liking what she saw, but it didn’t seem to me to be the case. The attempts to do everything that the average German does in a day or week left her wanting in the cleaning area. It’s a shame to have reduced “being a German Hausfrau” to the amount of time spent on housekeeping, laundry and cooking. There’s only so much of it in a two-bedroom apartment that’s only yours for two weeks.

Bee was greatly impressed with the Waldkindergarten that her 4-year-old attended but had no comprehension of why so many mothers stayed home not only with the under-threes but also with older children . She soon learned why: short school hours and no provision for nurseries for the under-threes. Everything in the system is geared to stay-at-home moms.

Of course, she was in Bavaria, the most conservative and Catholic Bundesland in the country. While Germany has just passed the deadline set for creating sufficient nursery capacities for a third of all children aged 1 and two, the Bavarian sister party to the national Christian Democrats blackmailed the federal government into paying mothers “care money” for staying home and minding their children there. To use Bavaria as a measure for all of Germany was perhaps a poor choice.

I’ve raised three children through the Kindergarten and school system in Germany and I was continually annoyed about so many aspects that they hold dear. To broach those issues would turn this blog post into an entire book. Suffice to say that since I had my kids in the system, the various counties and Bundesländer (the federal states are responsible for education policies – that means 16 different school systems!) have made huge (by their standards) strides forward. Kindergärten have become all-day affairs if you need it. Many elementary schools offer care till late afternoon. They call these all-day schools. However, the afternoons are not given over to class lessons. The kids are offered some crafts and sports options as well as help with their homework. It certainly isn’t a perfect solution but it’s progress nonetheless.

Going back briefly to my own experience: Firstly, we had kids because we wanted a family. What’s the point of giving birth only to drop the kid off at the child-minder for the first five years till school starts? There wasn’t a job out there (that I was qualified to do) that would have tempted me to leave my kids regularly with someone else. Especially since, as non-Germans, we had no family here to support our child-rearing. Most of our friends did have parents or siblings nearby to jump in when needed. Many moms did go out and do part-time jobs because they wanted to or had to.

Secondly, the system here is such that all sports, music and whatever extracurricular activities are all run independently of the schools by clubs and take place in the afternoon. Thus I spent my afternoons driving my kids to music lessons, football training, tennis, horse-back riding, judo, etc. If I’d had a full-time – or even a part-time job, who would have done that?

Bee and Justin’s experiment was a noble one. It was no doubt interesting to British audiences  to have a look at how Herr & Frau Durchschnitt (average) live. How much the Brits can learn from it about competing with the Germans is a different question. I am left questioning the validity and value of many of their conclusions. In the end the Brits have to find their own modus vivendi.

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Filed under Gender Questions, German History, Great Britain, Parenting

HACKERS??? PORN!! DISCLAIMER

I DO NOT NOW, NOR HAVE I HAD AT ANY TIME, CONTACT WITH PORN ADVERTISERS. I DID NOT SANCTION THESE ADS ON MY SITE

Long time no post. I’m back from travel – believe me, not all of it holiday! There’s a lot to talk about. In my absence Egypt has erupted and Edward Snowden has outed the US government as one humongous spy ring. I was going to get into those timely topics. But my thoughts have been hijacked by an issue closer to home, if not of any global significance. I returned to find my blog defaced by “Ads by CouponDropDown”. In the main they consist of links to porn sites, or at least I’m assuming that, since the pictures are of girls in various states of undress and alluring poses. I will assume here that their presence has not gone unnoticed either to those offended by them or to those distracted.

Please know that they have nothing to do with any choice I made to show them here and I am working on getting rid of them. Unfortunately, as a freebie user of Word Press, my rights seem to be limited to sending my complaints to an internet forum. Should I decide to sign up as a paying customer, then I might be able to access a telephone number and contact those responsible. Is this THEIR way of forcing me into committing to a “full-service” contract? If so, I am not amused.  If however, their systems have been hacked, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to notify them that my site is effected, or rather, infected?

Now, I would be less annoyed if the advertising were purely advertising. For example, beautiful ads for my book, THE PEACE BRIDGE, which show the custom-designed cover. But when they force porn onto my site, it makes it appear that I have signed up for it! So WORD PRESS: WHAT the hell are you going to do about this? And WHEN? NOW would be good!

Signed,  NOT AMUSED

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Filed under Fiction and Other Truths, Gender Questions, porn, WORD PRESS

VICTORIAN AMBIVALENCE – Fanny and Stella by Neil McKenna

                        jacqueline george tag small                                                                             

 My friend Jacqueline brought this newly published book to my attention. In Victorian Britain appearances deceive and double standards are the order of the day.

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 Hidden in the pages of a very serious magazine called History Today, I found a review of a book called Fanny and Stella. The story looked irresistible, so I persuaded the author Neil McKenna to come along for a chat about it. First let me tease you with one of the opening paragraphs :
Miss Stella Boulton was seemingly the younger of the pair and was resplendent in a brilliant scarlet silk evening dress trimmed with white lace and a white muslin shawl. Miss Stella Boulton was more than just pretty. In the glittering, flattering, faceted lights of the Strand’s Saloon bar she was quite beautiful. She was tall and slender, with a narrow waist and a magnificent bosom, her finely shaped head topped by raven hair fashionably dressed in the Grecian style with coils of plaited hair held in place by a crosshatch of black velvet. Her pale face was captivating with large liquid violet-blue eyes, just a becoming blush to her cheeks, perfect full ruby lips and pearly white teeth. She seemed to scintillate and shine like a star and the men could hardly take their eyes off her. If she was indeed a whore, she was an exceptional whore. A veritable queen among whores.

J. Mmh – I’m getting interested, and the subtitle is even more intriguing. What was going on?

Neil.  Fanny and Stella are, in fact, young men dressed as women and they are just about to be arrested by Inspector Thompson of the Metropolitan Police. Their arrest and trial became a Victorian sensation and eventually they were the defendants in a State Trial in Westminster Hall. My book is the remarkable and true story of Fanny and Stella. Some people have said that my book reads like fiction, but it just goes to show that the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

J. I couldn’t believe the story was true. I mean, I’d always thought of the Victorians as very proper. The idea of two well brought up young men cross-dressing in public, that doesn’t seem to fit. And the way you tell it, they did not stop at clothes but were what we would call gay today. What was the gay scene like in Victoria’s England?

stella

Neil. Fanny and Stella loved having sex with men – Stella lived with Lord Arthur Clinton, MP as man and wife, and Fanny contracted anal syphilis from one of her many amours. Before – and even during – her ‘marriage’ to Lord Arthur, Stella was twice arrested for prostitution in London’s Haymarket. Sex between men was rife in Victorian England. Scratch the surface and there it was for all to see. If you read the newspapers of the time, they are filled with reports of ‘unnatural offences’ and ‘uncleanness’ between men. It was all hugely illegal, of course. The death penalty for sodomy was only abolished in 1862.

J.   I guess today’s gays have it easy in comparison. No one is going to get executed for having a boy-friend today. At least, not officially. There seems to have been an acceptance of very close friendships between educated men, but friendships with no sexual component. Actually, even the sex was probably acceptable as long as no-one knew about it. Would you say that Fanny and Stella’s main offence was to have flaunted their sexuality so publicly?

Neil. Some gays do have it easy, but lots of today’s gays still have a terrible time. I wouldn’t want to be gay in Uganda, for example. Yes, Fanny and Stella’s crime was to flaunt themselves, a heinous sin in British society. But there was something else going on. Fanny and Stella were not just men who had sex with other men. They had an identity. They identified themselves as sodomites, as drag queens, they spoke a special language and had a friendship network with others like themselves. I think this nascent gay, camp identity was their worst crime. That and their effeminacy, which terrified those who wanted a muscular, masculine nation of young men who would go out and build an empire. Their State Trial in Westminster Hall was not so much a trial of Fanny and Stella as individuals but a trial of what they stood for, of their lifestyle and of their collective sexual identity.

J. Well, thank you, Neil. You’ve got my congratulations on a really absorbing book. I had never thought of homosexuality in a Victorian context, and you have painted a rich portrait of the gay life in those times.

We have not even mentioned the details of the arrest, ‘investigation’ and trial with all the might and pageantry of British justice arrayed against two young men who liked to party. That story would make a wonderful film!

The trial failed, so let me add a quotation from Winston Churchill who was himself a product of Victorian England :

“It is impossible to obtain a conviction for sodomy from an English jury. Half of them don’t believe that it can physically be done, and the other half are doing it.”

Thank goodness times have changed, and the hypocrisy and ignorance are disappearing. At least today a young man can wear whatever he likes on the streets of London without risking arrest and persecution.

Dickens must be revolving in his grave. Not to mention Victoria!  I’d like to thank Jacqueline and Neil McKenna for this interview. Cheers to both of you from the management!   dch

 

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Filed under Fiction and Other Truths, Gender Questions, Great Britain, Politics