Day 87 – Dear All Men

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Accept that you don’t get it! You don’t get it. You want an innocent heart, innocent faith you say? I was groped on the street when I was 12 for the first time, touched and mastrubated upon by several men on buses for a good part of my teenage years and young adulthood. Before I had any experience of a healthy sexual relationship, I learnt to clench my fist, grit my teeth and bear it, men forcing themselves on me. Before I learned to open up, relax and enjoy.

I am sorry if it seems unfair that all men are judged by these experiences. Its self-preservation. It helps me to expect it and be prepared. Of course I know all men are not going abuse their power over me, I certainly hope so. But so many have. So many, even the good ones, the kind ones. Because self-awareness, looking within, unraveling privilege is hard work, to be done every day, it is accepting that you have a shit reputation and a long history of entitlement and privilege and that you need to prove yourself each time and that’s just how it goes.

The fact that I still have faith in anything at all is a wonder. So don’t you dare call me angry! I am tired of spending energy every single day on protecting myself, in every space, every relationship, clothing myself, unclothing myself, building boundaries, not sending the ‘wrong’ message for your comfort.

Consent is hard. Consent means there will be frustrations, there will be times when you want to real bad and you can’t. That’s how it is, because it involves another human being. But if you prepare yourself for a possible ‘No’ from the beginning then the frustration will be more acceptable. But why don’t you expect that ‘No’ could be an answer? That’s entitlement, being used to always getting what you want. You think we don’t have enough times when we consent for reasons other than our own desire? Of course you don’t think, because have you ever done it? Had to do it?

Consent is enthusiasm, it is mutually shared pleasure. If you are not sure, ask again and be ready to really listen, respectfully. It is not you getting what you want and making yourself feel good by thinking you are giving her pleasure, so she has to fake an orgasm to soothe your ego. If she doesn’t have an orgasm, it’s probably because you need to learn a thing or two about female sexuality bro!

Before you get defensive, reflect. Before you say #NotALLMen think #YesAllWomen. Ask, listen, learn. Shut the judgement. If you make a mistake, apologise and start over again and again. Nobody expects you to get it all right away! Learn, question, challenge yourself. Ask women. Don’t assume your way is the only way. You don’t realize the level of entitlement it takes, to see vulnerability, care and tenderness and abuse it, accuse it, dismiss it.

I want to see men who are brutal with themselves, with their privilege, who look within and untangle the entitlement with tenacity. Transformation is painful, but it has to be done. I want men who question themselves incessantly like I see women around me doing every day, men who apologise with grace because they hurt you whether they thought it would hurt you or not is irrelevant. I want compassionate men, vulnerable men, men who cry when they see others in pain, men who care selflessly, men who love without assurance of love, or sex, or care or company.

 

Day 86 – A day in a life

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I woke up ears ringing, a numb pain at the back of my head. I had been drinking again, every night this week. I was waking up as if I had been hit on the head with a club. I dragged my feet to the shower and stood under the water, letting it wash it all away. The bitter taste of alcohol in my mouth, the smell of strangers on my skin. Where was I last night? I remembered vaguely stumbling into bed. I had slept with my shoes on. They were wet. Was it raining last night? As I stood in the shower, water pouring down my face, I remembered the walk back home. I had walked from a sleazy bar downtown all the way home. It should have taken me over an hour. I went to the bar alone, sat on a table by myself and then chatted with whoever wanted to chat with me. Everyone wanted to buy me a drink. I paid for nothing. I hadn’t eaten in 4 days, except an apple for lunch everyday. I didn’t look like I was from there so people spotted me easily. They smiled, they were mostly nice. A gentleman even dropped me home last night and offered to help me up to my apartment. I didn’t want to feel obligated to invite him in and then not know what to do with him, so I said I’ll be fine.

Yesterday I’d walked home. The walk was mostly uneventful. I’d have to be really really drunk to walk home in the middle of the night, across the city. But at least I now knew I could do it. I did that sometimes, did things that really freaked me out, just to know I could. But I didn’t like to take risks. Not in the adventure sense anyway. I never liked doing things that made me feel physically sick, like bungee jumping, or paragliding. I’d try rock climbing though and scuba diving. Yeah! I should try that sometime. May be next time I take a break, I should go some where to get a scuba diving lesson. I turned off the water, took the bar of soap and put it to my nose. I loved the smell of this soap. It made me get out of bed sometimes, the soap and the shower. What day was it today? I got out of the shower, checked my phone. Shit! dead battery. Where’s my watch? There it was. 10 am, Friday. Oh! Good! I didn’t have to work. I went back to bed, picked up my book and them remembered I had to pick up mom from the airport. Oh! Mom was coming today. That’s why I’d planned not to go out drinking last night. But my boss had been nasty again and Eric called and said he wanted me to come by and take all my stuff this weekend. So I’d gone to drown all that in whiskey. Well! it did work. I had forgotten about it, till I got up sober and hungover this morning.

I put on some clothes and drove my car to the airport. I was really glad mom was coming, it would help me fix my routine. I’d wake up early again, may be do some art, read, cook for her and take walks with her. That would be nice. As I pulled into the arrivals’ gate, I saw mom standing there, the sight of her brought tears to my eyes. Mom. Home. Hug. Love. Priceless. Made my day.

Day 85 – The tunnel’s coming

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The tunnel was nearing, car lights glaring, she couldn’t see a thing, but she stayed calm, steady foot on accelarator. It’s ok, you’ve done this many times, you can do this, stay calm. She entered the tunnel. She felt the gloom of the darkness overwhelm. Soon the entrance to the tunnel was disappearing in the rear view. She couldn’t see where she was before the tunnel. It all seemed dark now. Sweaty palms, sore muscles, heavy breathing, she knew all the signs now. She couldn’t see the end. It had happenned so many times, yet she feared everytime that this time, this tunnel, wouldn’t end. She began to tell herself she had to get used to the dark. She squinted, refocussed, still nothing. Keep driving till you get to the other side. You will get to the other side. You will.

Day 84 – A ‘Humanitarian’s Rant

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Before I get started, this is a rant meaning I am annoyed, I am not taking into consideration exceptions and the ‘other’ side of all this! And I know the ‘other’ side, but I just want to rant! Nevertheless all that I am saying is true in some (I suspect most) cases anyway.
Facts first: I work for a humanitarian organisation. The organisation works with refugees, people affected by conflict and disasters and people living in extreme poverty. I am a mental health professional. 

Here’s some things we ‘humanitarians’ do:

We think ‘dignity’ is made of underwear, mentrual pads, torch lights and whistles and that we can wrap it in a towel, pack it in a bucket and distribute it. We call them ‘dignity kits’.

We think gender mainstreaming means reaching a higher percentage of women and girls through our activities. We will still work with adolescent girls with the sole objective of improving their maternal health.

When we do ‘life skills’ training for adolescents, we will talk only about cisgender and heterosexual identities because we will talk queer and non-binary gender identities when we are working on those aspects (mostly in developed countries). And then preach to the world about diversity.

When we say ‘protection’ we mean reaching the most vulnerable Socio-economic groups through our activities. We measure this by ‘disaggregated’ data on the different vulnerable groups we reached.

We would like to think that what we do is better than nothing, that we are saving lives and we are but we could be doing so much more. My problem is not that we do all of the above, my problem is that we so often stop there, we are not ambitious enough, idealistic enough. We are sometimes too ‘practical’, satisfied with lower standards than we would accept for ourselves, our lives. There is a lot we do not control, but there is a lot we don’t even aspire to affect and that bothers me.

And I know many people who are trying to change all of this from the inside, I have great respect for them and I wish them the resilience to keep at it, to keep raising their voices in cluster and advocacy meetings despite the number of people rolling their eyes at the table. I wish them strength on days like these when you feel useless, worthless, you want to give it all up cause what difference does it make? But somebody heard you and somebody will repeat it at another cluster meeting and another coordination meeting and thus goes the ripple of the butterfly effect. I hope. In any case its these people who keep me going.

Sometimes, I tell myself, I am one of these people trying to change it from the inside, but its only so I can sleep in the night. I don’t have the anatomy for it, I suppose. And thus the eternal dilemma- to be or not to be a ‘humanitarian’?