Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Everything's gonna be fine

So here I am in Lisbon, Portugal. Being back in Europe reminds me of my ideals. I'm improvising every day, doing little to no planning for this trip beyond having booked my guesthouses weeks ago. My favourite city so far was Oslo, which had most of the things I loved about Helsinki, but with more vibrancy and immigration. We were greeted with the charming red cottages on the way to the city, and once we were enveloped by our high immigrant quota neighbourhood, the architecture would gleam at us around every corner. I love charming details on old apartment blocks, and I love feminism even more, so catching public transport was one of my favourite things - I got to watch and listen as the women and men of Oslo negotiated with their world. Sometimes you don't need to communicate verbally with someone to pick up on their energy... It was a beautiful experience, and I was reluctant to leave. I wasn't expecting Norway to compete with Sweden in my eyes, but that's what happened. Norway's non-membership of the EU means that Sweden remains my No. 1 choice for the place to move to - and hopefully I can have lots of holidays in its Western neighbour. :)

Lisbon is charmingly run down after the flawless facades of the Nordics, but it's an architecture I've seen replicated in the likes of Macau and Phuket and have grown to love. I am also breathing a sigh of relief over the prices! The friendly faces I have asked for help have been welcoming, but not overtly happy. I wish I were more awake as I write this, but my guesthouse is very noisy and has been keeping me up at night. This is my last full day in Lisbon, and, having explored the BĂ©lem district yesterday, I plan to spend the entire day wandering around charming parts of the city and take in the pastel coloured buildings some more.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Quick sweep of the room (Poem)

Quick sweep of the room --
I've learned to hold your gaze
When it's encountered
Your eyes may rest on my face
I'll not be flustered
There's a chimney from which
Pink smoke is emanating
And if we find the wonder
There will be one less mindset
Ripe for plunder

Quick sweep of the room --
I hear your stories
I've been meaning to tell you
How I mean to disagree
With the gatekeepers
Dare to share the stories
That sustain me
From a bigger platform
Yet the feedback keeps me hanging on
To muted pastures
Can you tell me if it won't be long
Before I get what I am after?


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Radically valuing women

There are certain things I can't stop seeing or hearing. The word 'bitch' recurs no matter how hard I try to minimise my exposure to it. It's not surprising when people who are easy to identify as misogynists offer it up, but I've noticed that feminists also join in in this cruel dehumanisation. When the very people I look up to as role models start insulting women along these lines, I know there's a deeply embedded problem with misogyny in global culture.

It's a radical action to love, value and respect women so much that we elevate each other whenever possible, and keep our criticisms constructive. It also takes a lot of character and goodwill. By refusing to buy into a semantics where women can occupy the space of 'bitches', we are transforming culture, one conversation at a time. It does take willpower to wade through the incessant name-calling and refuse to take part. It can be so tempting to revert to the popular teachings about women's place in society. But if we see the need to create a new vocabulary with the aim of radically respecting women in mind, we can achieve great things!

There is a real shortage of positive messages being sent to women about their worth. When women are interrupted so a man can speak, it sends the message that she's not significant enough to be listened to. When a man strikes a woman, it sends the message that she doesn't have the right to feel safe in her body. These are just two of the thousands of examples I can think of, and you only need to browse through the site Everyday Sexism to realise that women are subject to slights and injustices on a daily basis. 

I'm doing my best to think of women in a positive light. We are all trying so hard to be the best versions of ourselves. My new friend is passionately volunteering with youth, and is completing a degree by distance education while adjusting to the stresses of the big city, while trying to keep up with the million and one things that capture her interest, like TEDxSydney. All this, with a physical disability. My mum, one of my biggest supporters, holds down a stressful job as an academic and handles the majority of the housework. She still finds time to give me pep talks anyhow. Another new friend keeps her sense of humour despite facing regular street harassment and violence. Being trans is harder than most cis folk can imagine, yet she manages to remain supportive and encourages me to thrive. 

I can think of another woman's wisdom that's worth mentioning: She's currently the oldest person in the world, and lives in the United States. Her advice for those who wish to live as long as she has (121, I think), is to be nice to everybody. It obviously worked for her... and why not be nice to everybody? We're all doing our best, even those of us who are behaving like internet trolls. Most of life's problems can probably be fixed by the application of more kindness, more compassion, more love...