Failure, abuse, rage and the dead zone

This week has been tough, and I feel like I failed. Failed as a friend, as a mentor, and leader. Although I consider myself to be a rather accomplished professional, it’s no big news: we can put it there, right next to all my other failures and they can chat amongst each other at night. […]

This week has been tough, and I feel like I failed. Failed as a friend, as a mentor, and leader. Although I consider myself to be a rather accomplished professional, it’s no big news: we can put it there, right next to all my other failures and they can chat amongst each other at night. If they keep it down, sometimes their chatter lulls me to sleep.

There has been lots of pressure from lots of sides and eventually, the question doubles down to how much abuse you can and should take before snapping, even if you know snapping won’t solve a thing. And while you’re there, looking at things burning and feeling the heat of escalation on your face, you keep asking if maybe you should have just stayed silent. For once. Just for once.

And then you remember all the previous times you had indeed stayed silent. And you move on. Eventually. Maybe.

Lots of what happened this week, ironically, happened to me before, not so long ago. Being called abusive while being abused, being called misogynist because I wasn’t the woman they expected me to be, being called a bad friend because I wasn’t up for some bullshit, a bad person for having moral values. And I said: no more. Apparently, I was wrong.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

General news have not helped and three things enraged me beyond any measure:

  1. the general idea, and related bills around the US, that teachers should “call out” trans kids to their parents and mental health officers;
  2. the tragedy of Sarah Everard (read here, if you live in a box) and this idea that women should be careful as a de facto status;
  3. the Christian Porter thing (read here and follow the trail, if you know nothing about it) and the general idea that if you have raped someone aged 16 while you were 17, hey, we have all done some shit at that age.

I’ll unwrap it, and if you’re just here for the Covid update, jump at the bottom of the post, ok?

1. Dear Parents, I do not work for you

a.k.a. Dear Parents, I’m not your ally in a war against your kid’s
also known as Dear Parents, you do not own your kids

The news that got me enraged beyond any measure this week is no news at all: several States have previously tried and sometimes succeeded in passing bills that would consider mandatory for teachers to call out kids displaying what is being considered symptoms of a mental health issue while in fact, they’re simply signs they’re maturing a gender identity that’s not in alignment with their biological one. See Texas in 2016, see Ohio in 2018 (expanded upon also here and here).
Some serious shit, however, is going down right now and I advise you to click on this link before proceeding: it’s a “legislative tracker“, a mapping of all anti-transgender legislation currently being proposed in the US. Lots of them are around sports and access to gender transition therapies and treatments. If you dig through this pile of shit, you’ll also find Alabama (see here), where a teacher could be prosecuted by the law if they withhold information «related to a minor’s perception that his or her gender is inconsistent with his or her sex» and it’s ambiguous enough to suggest a teacher might face «10 years in prison or a $15,000 fine» just as much as a doctor providing gender-affirming care to children. The list is far from being exhaustive: there’s significant shit going down in South Dakota too, for instance, and while some states like California and Virginia seems to be considering some light action in introducing more education about transgender issues, some other Countries are rowing in the total opposite direction, trying to introduce a ban to that kind of topics.
This, unfortunately, doesn’t stop in the US: New South Wales, in Australia, faced a similar bill in 2020, appallingly called “Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill“, immediately dubbed (see here and here)

Should you be a US trans kid finding yourself in trouble at school,
click here for a list of your rights
and some guidance on how to fight discrimination.

As you know, I can’t call myself a teacher, as I don’t do that full-time and it’s not right to compare myself to people who have dedicated their entire life and devote the entirety of their time to teach, but I am an educator and one of the most significant experiences in my career is, has been and always will be the opportunity to make a difference in the growth of another human being. I try to always be there for my students and nothing makes me happier than seeing one of my students succeed and flourish at something I introduced them to.

It should be clear enough, however, that when I am tutoring a kid, I have only one client: the kid.
Now, two different scenarios might apply scenario #1, in private institutions, where parents are paying directly; scenario #2, in public institutions, where Society is paying through everyone’s taxes (including mine).

In scenario #1, I do not work for parents, even if their money is transitioning directly from their hands into my pockets: the very nature of our agreement is that they’re appointing me to engage with their kids for their own growth. I am not paid to shape kids into what their parents want them to be. I am paid to help kids realize what they want to be, in order to be happy and successful in life. You don’t like it? You try and teach them yourself. Ah. No. Wait. Most societies don’t allow you to do that anymore. And you know why? Because it didn’t work.

In scenario #2, it goes without saying, this is even more true. Not only it’s the nature of my role to help kids grow in whatever direction they want, but I am even more obviously appointed by Society to do so.

In both scenarios, there’s no way in hell I would betray their trust.

This brings us to an interesting thought.
Parents are granted the right to choose which school they want their kids to go to, almost everywhere, because they’re acting as a proxy and they too are appointed by Society to tend for their kids. The moment you decided to give birth to another human being, said human being is out there and you don’t own them. They’re out there, as individuals, in a society that is (or should be) committed to protecting them. They’re not “your” kids and you don’t have any right to bully them, let alone abuse them and submit them to invasive and humiliating mental health treatments for wanting to be who they are. Do you want proof of this? If Society finds you unfit as a parent, they can be taken away from your care: they were never yours in the first place.

I dream a society in which kids are respected and protected and helped to become who they want to become.
Is that so wrong?

2. Dear Man, I do not “need to be careful”

a.k.a. Even if I am, it doesn’t really matter
a.k.a. How about you need to behave?

March 3rd, 9 pm: Sarah Everard a 33-years old woman, leaves a friend in Clapham, London, and starts walking towards her house in Brixton;
March 3rd, 9.13 pm: she calls her boyfriend on the phone and they chat for about 15 minutes.

March 4th: her friends notify the police and start spreading posters, realizing she’s missing.

March 6th: the Police start to investigate, also known as “increase their attention”, and it’s the first time a picture of Sarah is released by authorities.

March 7th: the Police “discovers” more CCTV footage which places her alive at 9:30 pm. This is one of the points where it’s worth signaling how she was clothed.

March 8: Police officers admit it’s “a missing person investigation”

March 9: dogs are brought in, and the pond in Clapham Common is drained.
A cordon is set up around a group of houses on Poynders Road.
A serving Metropolitan Police Officer is arrested and Police start searching around Kent.

March 10, 8.30 am: a press conference held by Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave inform us that the Police Officer arrested on suspicion of kidnapping was not on duty at the time of the disappearance (because that makes it so much better). On the same occasion, Scotland Yard also adds the man is now being held on suspicion of murder and on “a separate allegation of indecent exposure”. (if you want to read what qualifies as such an offense in the UK, it’s here and it contains some frankly disquieting passages).
March 10, 8.20 pm: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick confirms that human remains have been found in woodlands around Ashford and from her statement, it’s clear enough that they’re in bad shape, far from being easy to identify.

March 11: Boris is sad.

March 12: Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave confirms to the press that the remains have been identified as the ones of Sarah Everard.

It’s not the first time it happens and it’s not the first time it has prompted women to speak out about their experiences, but I feel each time it becomes louder, stronger, angrier.

And rightfully so.

The narrative is always tending towards “she shouldn’t have walked home”, and only because she “did everything else right”: she called her boyfriend on the phone, she was wearing bright clothes, she was not provocatively attired.
Me? I don’t even own that kind of clothes. Maybe I have a sleeveless emergency jacket from the car. And I am always walking. Everywhere.
People have tried to mug me, multiple times, I’ve been harassed by men “wanting to chat”, men insisting that I named a price, men insisting in “wondering if I needed any help”, I’ve had men stepping out of the shadows to show me they were masturbating and men trying to pee on my shoes. men trying to undo the pin in my hair (if I had a dime for every time a man sneaked behind my back and tried to do that…), I’ve been smooched at, while simply walking in the street, a thing that makes me want to throw up every time in a way I’ll never be able to explain to anyone who feels “it’s not a big deal”. I’ve been threatened with physical harm by former co-workers. I’ve avoided places, conferences, streets. Hey, I’ve even avoided going out of the house. I don’t think it’s normal. It’s usual, however. And yet the emphasis never is on teaching men to behave.

There has been a huge amount of wonderful and painful sharing under the #SarahEverad, #notallmenbutallwomen, #ReclaimTheStreets, #ReclaimTheNight, and #SheWasJustWalkingHome hashtags. Especially on Twitter. I suggest you join in if you’re feeling a #MeToo shouting inside of you.
One of the things I stumbled upon, however, is this prose poem and I’ve shared it on Twitter too. I thought I should take it one step further, however, so here I highlight all the things that have been said to me directly and, to make it more fun, I will consider just former bosses and co-workers.

Yup. Here’s a list of remarks I’ve received at work.

Note that some of these do not apply, as I always wear black and heels, shave my legs and armpits, and color my lips. I’ve been requested, however, to do some of those things differently: does this apply?

I dream a society in which I can walk how I want,
where I want and
when I want.
Is that so wrong?

3. Dear Men, rape is not excusable

This brings us to the third and last thing that got me enraged and sad and further upset, this week, which is the Christian Porter case, where a woman stepped forward and accused him of having raped her when she was 16 and ultimately committed suicide.
There’s a lot to unpack, in this case, starting from the fact that an 88-page report was reduced to a memorandum e-mail as it went up the chain of command, but I think shit really hits the fan when people bring into the picture the fact that the accused was 17, at the moment, and use the information as an attenuating circumstance because “hey, we’ve all done some shit at that age”.

Now, I hate to break it to you, but rape is not “some shit”, is not some minor thing that you might have done while you were drunk at a party or just because you were young and didn’t know better. The act itself, by definition, is performed by someone who’s old enough to be compelled to know better. And being prosecuted when they don’t. And there’s no expiration date for this, there’s no time limit after which it becomes too outdated to be relevant because the amount of damage such a thing does, especially at a young age, has no limits and knows no boundaries.

And yes, we’ve all done some shit when we were young. I have done some shit when I was young and I’ll come out with it now.
I have stolen a used lipstick from a friend’s bathroom during a party at her house. Valentina, I owe your mother one lipstick (maybe a dozen of them, considering interests) and a profound apology, even if I should add that she had two identical ones. And we were in secondary school. I was even dumb enough to bring it in class, after a few days, and my friend was able to recognize it from a characteristic crack the lipstick had. She was the coolest kid ever. She did not call me out. I wonder what became of her.

Anyway, yes, we have all done “some shit”.
But the fact that you would even think this is remotely comparable to any other misdemeanor or even felony you might commit as a stupid kid really makes me wonder… buddy, have you done “some shit” in my sense, or have you done “some shit” in your sense? Do you ever get the feeling that people defending this line of thought have crying girls and broken lives hiding in their wardrobes?

I dream a society in which
men shouldn’t have to reassure you that “they’re not animals”
because when this conversation is on the table
it means they are.

But I know that some of you are here for the Covid update from quarantined Italy, so here it is.
We have circled back being almost in full lockdown, which kind of might explain my mood. In almost a year, we find ourselves to be pretty much where we started. You have some data here. And I posted this on Twitter.

This has been the escalation during the last three weeks. Yeah. It’s not going well.

I put a single loop for Twitter, so you should refresh it if you want to see it again. But trust me, you don’t.


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