Bye Bye Berlin, Hello World

Sitting here on my last morning in Berlin, I am trying to remember all the things that have made these past 2 years monumental for me. This blog is one of them. I have, finally, started to write on a regular basis and I am so much happier for it. I also organised The Femme Show 2012 and conceived and edited a collective zine about sexism. Berlin, you have meant so much to me. Berlin, you have driven me crazy and helped me get sane. Thank you.

A few people asked me if I intend to keep blogging here, and I am happy to say yes of course! I will be travelling into new patriarchal territory in Canada and I am sure there will be stuff there to blog (bitch) about in witty detail. Do keep checking in for updates on what I’m doing and thoughts about sexism. Who knows, this might even turn into a book.

The Berlin Femme Show 2012 @ Lido; copyright Sara Svärtan Persson http://blacklikeink.tumblr.com/

As I sort my clothes and do all the tiny annoying things you have to do when you move country, I am surprisingly sad. I thought I would be so happy to leave; so happy. I have been waiting for this for years. To return to Canada. To leave the place of my depression and grey Winters, foreign languages and foreign customs.

Talking with a few friends who thank me for the femme activism I have done here, they remind me that I have made more connections than I expected. More connections than I wanted, even. I never wanted to be here. I never wanted to stay here. I always hated here.

That is one of my biggest problems; I never want to be now. I always want to be in the future. Then, when I live in Canada. Then, when I have a girlfriend. Then, when I am happy. I am getting better at learning the only time to be happy is now.

I am so sad to leave. I have more friends than I expected. I have loved more than I expected, despite stubbornly trying not to. ‘I’m not going be let them in, I don’t want them to know me.’ Sticks head under cover. This stubbornness competes with my real desire, hidden behind the defensiveness, to be loved and understood and to love back. I have always understood. Have you understood me?

Getting ready for The Femme Show, copyright Sara Svärtan Persson

Hence the writing, the performance, the activism. I have literally taken my clothes off on stage. My therapist explains my clumsy metaphors; you’re playing with your sexual boundaries, you have control [burlesque link]. I take centre stage. My unrealised performance of boxing my way through cardboard boxes, fighting to get free. Metaphor of being boxed in. Using my boxing training to break free.

I’ve aired my most secret thoughts, published them in a zine and here, and dared you to attack me. Femmephobic, transphobic? I’ve been accused of being a lot of things, and I know I am none of them. I push back. I cause deliberate controversy. I test the ground.

Berlin is a great place to experiment and learn new skills. The comparatively low cost of living here means that lots of bright young things from all over the ‘Western’ world have come to work. Studios are cheap, skills workshops are often free. People are willing to share their skills. New collaborations are continuously forming and dissolving. Writers become burlesque dancers become event promoters become bloggers. So many possibilities. Thank you Berlin.

I always knew this wouldn’t be the place for me to settle down, and I guess predictions are self-fulfilling. I never wanted 100% to be here; I’ve always had my heart somewhere else. Although I am glad these years are past, I am surprised by how much they have contained. There has been The Berlin Femme Show 2012, Dressed Like That zine, this blog, workshops on femmephobia in Copenhagen, Leipzig, Goettenberg and Hamburg. Friends that have passed through the city, leaving a little bit of love behind. A tiny bit of sugar left on the candy apple.

It’s been a really hard two years, and I’ve learnt a lot. And despite trying to live in the future too much, I am excited about my thirties. I turn 30 on the day the Mayan’s predicted the world would end. This will be two months after moving to Canada. I am hoping this new era will mean a change in consciousness for me, and for the planet. Maybe we’ll realise we’re living unsustainably and take care of the Earth? I am such a cheese bag.

Performing at the Femme Show; copyright Simson Petrol

I’d like to pretend this is an Oscars acceptance speech for one minute and thank all my lovely friends, old and new, for believing in me. I am blessed. I often forget that, but I am. I’d like to thank everyone who supported with kind words and actions and helped out with The Berlin Femme Show and Dressed Like That zine. I am sorry we never got those goodie bags to you. That’s what happens when two over-achieving femmes try to take over the world. Our desires can exceed our time-management skills. Don’t forget we still love you, despite this forgetfulness.

I also want to thank my good friend Rosebutt for believing in me as a performer. I still don’t really believe in myself, but I have tried to accept the praise from an artist I admire so fucking much. Trash Deluxe and its other organisers Kay P. Rinha and Nicopatra have created a great space for aspiring performers to test their ideas. My close friends for believing in me, and for scraping me off the floor when I needed it. Other Nature for selling my zine and Maedchenmannschaft for linking my posts.

It’s been a momentous two years, and I hope you accompany me into new blogging and geographical territory. Bye bye Berlin, hello Canada!

Still from Femme Show, copyright Simson Petrol
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Am I asking for it?

Part 2 of 2 on parties: norms in straight vs. queer spaces, how to create a safer atmosphere and is there such a thing as unspoken consent?

Last week, I was really enraged at the sexist dynamics of a party, which had advertised itself as a respectful, erotic place for people of all persuasions. I felt like the lack door policy, and the permission of cameras, led to a sexist dynamic of straight men in casual clothes ogling women dressed-up in erotic wear. I was frustrated that the organisers hadn’t reinforced their door policy and allowed people in who were not on the guest list. I thought they needed to take responsibility for the atmosphere of the parties they create and acknowledge where they go wrong.

The vibe of this party got me thinking about the difference between this, a mixed party for straight and queer people, and queer parties for queers. My experience of mixed parties is, sadly, that I often feel the ‘freaky queers’ are being objectified by the ‘normal’ straight people. I get angrily defensive of my people when I feel we are put on display for the titillation of straight people. When we are just expressing our freaky selves in an atmosphere that we assumed would be safe.

Although I have many criticisms of the dynamics of queer communities, I do think there are some things we do well. Although our attempts to talk about hierarchies and prejudices are flawed, at least we are trying to talk about them. I don’t like imposing a blanket ban on straight men from spaces, because there are some straight men I would like to flirt with. But last week reminded me of how blessed I am that I can sometimes go to a party where I can dress like a pretty slut, and feel safe doing that.

Slutwalk NYC 2011

Last week I promised I would answer the tricky question, ‘is there such a thing as unspoken consent?’ Hmm. I really do set myself up for challenges, don’t I? I don’t really want to discuss sexual consent here, but I do want to discuss the norms of queer parties. I appreciate queer scene attempts to cultivate a respectful atmosphere where people feel safe. I have seen this a lot in Berlin around the treatment of trans folks at FLT (Women, Lesbian, Trans) parties. In our invitations to events, such as on Facebook, we use the space to lay out rules; how we imagine the space is going to be. We suggest what kind of atmosphere we are trying to cultivate. There is a leaflet that sometimes circulates on Berlin toilet doors that is a guide to the respectful treatment of trans folk. For the alternative pride march in Berlin, a group of femmes also made a guide to respecting femmes for the Berlin community, which has a history of not being so hot in femme respect.

When organising The Berlin Femme Show 2012 I got annoyed at how fussy people were about photographers and wouldn’t let people photograph them, but now I understand it a bit more. I hate to feel put on a stage, my freaky femininity, eroticism or queerness there for the entertainment of ‘normal’ others. I feel this especially when I am not performing. I expect and want attention when I do burlesque. I also want sexual attention from other queers at parties. But I see now that things like a ban on cameras helps to create a respectful atmosphere where no-one feels like they are being the freak and non-consensually performing for others.

Two days ago, a pretty shitty incident happened outside a mixed queer/straight club in Berlin. The party offered free entry to Queens and Kings, and because I couldn’t afford the entry fee, I decided to get changed into my Queen outfit on the street. This involved taking off my jeans to reveal stockings, putting on high-heeled boots and taking off my top so that all I was wearing were sparkly tit tassles and a net cardigan. A Queen indeed. Unfortunately, some drunk teenage boys took my near nudity as an excuse to come right up to me and stare at me, make some rude remarks and try to grab hold of me. My reaction to this was violent. I told them to fuck off and went to kick them. They left me alone after this threat, but I entered the party feeling angry with them, and guilty at my own violent reaction. Luckily, a friend was with me and escorted me to the door; otherwise I would have been afraid I would be attacked outright.

Perhaps I was naïve. Getting changed on the street and not expecting any unwanted attention. I had just come from being on a drag and burlesque stage, where I performed topless and was treated with nothing but respect by the audience. I think sometimes I forget that Berlin isn’t this big happy queer play space and that some men, when faced with a half-naked woman, think it’s their lucky day. A perfect opportunity to … what? I have no fucking idea what goes on in their heads at that moment. I pride myself on my empathy – my ability to understand others’ points of view, especially when I don’t agree with them – but I can’t imagine those teenage boys’ thought processes at that moment. I think it’s something to do with being macho, being in a group and wanting to show off to their friends. I don’t think they are thinking clearly. I think they are being drunk, and hyper and talking about girls and then they see a sexy girl and they do something really fucking stupid. I hope they feel bad about what happened. I bet, on some level, they do.

These two recent experiences have left me feeling exhausted by the fight for my bodily autonomy in straight spaces, and grateful that queer spaces do exist where sometimes, just sometimes, I can be who I am and not expect to be attacked for it.

I would also like to talk about violence as a response to sexual harassment. My instinctive reaction when attacked is to yell, swear and hit back. I have beat myself up about this but found it affirming to hear two feminine, queer lady friends of mine talk about their own violent reactions to being queer bashed or sexually assaulted. One told me she will kick and fight back until she sees understanding in their eyes that they have done wrong.

I would be interested to hear about your own reactions to sexist, homophobic or transphobic violence. How do you react and are these reactions deliberate or instinctive? How do you feel about the way you react?

Peace out.

Is ‘Cupcake Feminism’ all Empty Calories?

Yes, I know, I know. I haven’t been around much lately have I? Well, as well as working away I am now moving to Canada in the next couple of months. So, everything’s gone a bit crazy with, like, a million and one things to do and I haven’t written any posts.

But, never fear! You can read more of my writing on amazing feminist website The F Word. I was inspired by the responses I received on Innocente(a)se and the Rise of the Cupcake to follow up on the classist and racist implications crafting chic. Check it out here and let me know what you think!

Normal blogging service will be resumed shortly.

Check the awesomeness! http://cunting.bigcartel.com/product/a-very-english-sweary-bunting

I am on the radio!

Hey guys, here’s a bit of Sunday lazy listening for you. It’s an interview with the Dresden-based radio station, coloRadio, recorded last weekend at Ladyfest Leipzig. Thanks to Antje for interviewing me! We recorded at 2 in the morning outside a queer punk party after I had drunk a lot of gin, but I think I still manage to make quite a lot of sense. Click here to listen.

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for my lowdown on the anti-sexism workshops I have run over the past few weeks. Yay for fem(me)inist activism!

Femmepowerment at Ladyfest Leipzig this Saturday!

Pertinent to that little article I retweeted which questions whether in-fighting hurts feminism, I am going to be giving a workshop about sexism within the queer community at Ladyfest Leipzig this weekend! Yay! This is a workshop for feminine queers to share the ways in which we feel left out of the left-wing queer scene and brainstorm ways to make it more inclusive. It’s all about fem-me-powerment and LOVE. I look forward to meeting you all! Workshop is in English with a German translator.

Scroll down to read all about it or click here for the info in German.

Feminist zombies take on the world

Sexism in the Queer Community – feminine queers only

Saturday 9th June, 12:30 – 14:00

Linxxnet, Leipzig

Have you ever felt excluded from the queer community because of your gender expression? Discussion-based workshop that aims to share experiences of sexism and form femme and queer-feminine community. I’ll also introduce my zine project on this subject and talk about femme activism. Open to all feminine-identified queers, of whatever sex or gender. Workshop in English with the possibility of German translation

Oops!

I know, whoops, I haven’t posted for a while, have I? I left Berlin and went to earn some money by brainwashing kids into learning English. And now I’m about to do it again, for 3 weeks. Oh, well, life’s an adventure. In case you are panicking, ‘Oh my God she’s never going to write anything ever again!’, don’t worry, I am. I have plenty of subjects I want to tackle, and feminist bitching I want to do, so no worries, I’ll be back mid-May.

In the meantime, here is some of the stuff I’ve been up to. The Berlin Femme Show raised €500 for Dressed LIke That zine. Amazing! You can therefore buy it for a below cost price (€3.50) at Silver Future bar, Weserstr 206, Berlin. If you don’t live in Berlin, no fears you can order it or read / download it online for free. Yes, I am that nice. I am also using some of the funds raised to make sure local queer charities and zine archives all over the world have the zine. I am still looking for archives to submit it to, or distros to sell it, so if you know one, contact me!

Ooh, and don’t forget to check out the beautiful pictures of The Berlin Femme Show on the Berlin Femme Mafia blog. Big thanks to photographers Simson Petrol and Sara Svärtan Persson.

OK that’s all for now lovelies. I’ll be back in 4 weeks with some of that writing you’ve been missing 🙂

Call for Action Today!

Hey guys. I wanted to let y’all know about a really awful breach of human rights happening in Berlin right now. A father of an 11-year-old transgender girl has the authorities’ support to remove her from her mother’s home and place her in therapy (yup, that’s a mad house to you and I) until she returns to ‘normality.’ They will force her to grow up as a boy. I can’t imagine the psychological and physical damage to this child that will result from this action.

What you can do:

Sign this petition.

Go to this rally today.

Get informed by reading this article in English. I find it shocking, sad and depressing that these kinds of things *still* happen in so-called developed countries. Bleurgh.

On a happier note, I am very proud to be quoted in next month’s Hugs & Kisses magazine. This queer German mag contains an article about asexuality written by the amazing author of that zine on asexuality I wrote about. In fact, my most popular post on not wanting to have sex will be reprinted in the next edition of the zine. Yay for me! The article will also be featured in a new zine for queer youth in Berlin. More details to come sooooon!

Your sad and happy news for the day. Over and out. LTx