Friday, 18 October 2013

My fears and the reality of starting German university.

I've got to be honest, this has absolutely terrified me. Going to classes all in German with actual, real German students, has been a thing of my nightmares. This semester I only have 1 class with these figures from my bad dreams, so really it shouldn't be too bad. So far I've only had this class, as my DaF (Deutsch als Fremdsprache) courses start next week (but I'm not really concerned about those ones).

The Proseminar that I am taking is called Die 'Lebensreform'-Bewegung und der Krise der Moderne im frühen 20. Jahrhundert. (The 'life reform' movement and the crisis of modernity in the early 20th Century). Even in English it sounds a bit difficult to me, but I had to choose it, as I'm supposed to be taking Proseminar courses, I need to pass 3 this year according to my home university; and being a history student, I thought bring it on.

I never imagined it to be as hard as it was, I started talking to a woman who was sitting next to me about how nervous I was. I almost walked away from the room it was in 3 times before actually going in. And she said that I should be fine, if I was allowed to take it then my German must be good enough to understand it, but my plan was still just to sit there quietly, don't talk and just get a feel for it. But that wasn't allowed to happen.

Lecturer walked in, and gave an introduction. As soon as he started I knew I was screwed, he spoke so quickly and with an accent so I could barely understand what he was saying. He then gave us all a handout and told each of us to read a paragraph out loud. So much for my plan of being quiet. I was one of the last ones to read, and I just kept getting more and more nervous as I was the only exchange student there. It came to me, and I tried my best to read it (My glasses are still in England so it'd be a struggle for me to read out loud in English currently too). Got half way through and the lecturer stopped me, said something. I couldn't quite catch what, something about German obviously not being my mother tongue or something; to which everyone laughed. Then he finished my paragraph and just moved on. It was mortifying. I went so red and really had to try so hard not to cry, it just made it all that little bit worse and completely knocked my confidence, in my language skill and just generally. Then he continued with his lecture, most of which I didn't understand, only the odd sentence, and a part on nationalism. Tried to take notes, but only getting odd words it was too difficult so I ended up with a sheet of random words and 'I don't understand any of this' written about 50 times.

Left there in tears, cried on the bus home, cried when I was at home. Emailed a German lecturer at my home university asking if I could drop it as there's no point in me doing it. (If I can't understand the lectures, how the hell am I meant to give a presentation on a topic within it, and then write a 10-15 essay on it?!) She said no, that I need to continue, which just made me cry more.

So I have to go back on Tuesday, to something that turned out to be as bad as my nightmares. I can't look forward to it, knowing that I'm going to fail, no matter how much work I put into it. (one of my biggest fears is failing, so this is not going to end well).

Hopefully when my DaF courses start on Monday, it will begin to improve, but so far I am not enjoying the university side of my Year Abroad, and come Tuesday, I'm just going to want to hide under my duvet and pretend that I have the day off, because instead of subsiding my fear of going to Proseminare, my experience so far is just making it worse.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Move to Regensburg: Day 4.

I'll admit there was a lot of crying before I left and not all of it from me (surprisingly), but yes a lot of it was me. I was terrified about moving to a completely different country, where I did have some language skill, but not very much, and that being effectively it.

To be honest, I've been here 4 days now, and I'm still terrified. I seem to have gone into ultra-shy mode. I had my first orientation day at the university today, and it took me almost 4 hours before I spoke to anyone, without them speaking to me first. Yet overall, it wasn't as bad as I was anticipating. I've met a few people, spoke with many, which in one day is quite a lot for someone as nervous as me. Of course at the beginning of the day when I saw many people just walking up to strangers and starting conversations, I panicked. I knew I couldn't do that. Yet after today, I now don't care about it, people will walk up to you and talk. There's loads of opportunities to meet people, you don't all have to do it in the first day. After realising this, I've felt a bit happier about moving here, I won't be completely alone, I've even been asked to join a group of people at a pub tonight (whether it actually happens and if I go or not will be another thing) but it's a start.

Part of the orientation day was a placement test. For some reason, I blame Reading Uni, I was placed at a B2 level for my language. I can tell you all straight away that I am not a B2, whatever that means, my language is not good enough yet. So when I came to take the B2 test, of course I didn't do very well, got 49% (I think) which put me at a B1 level, which is alright. I'll have to see what happens tomorrow when I start language classes as to which group I'm put in.

Other things about the move so far:
- My room is HUGE, but bare (and also ridiculously cheap) - I will put photos up eventually.
- The kitchen in my WG, however, is very small for so many people (most of whom aren't here yet, it's practically empty!)
- Regensburg's Altstadt is absolutely gorgeous (you should all visit, it's worth it)
(See look! That's the Cathedral, the whole town is very medieval and lovely)
- It's weird watching cars travel in the other lane, and rather disorientating
- The town centre has a ridiculous amount of shops that sell Lederhosen & Dirndls

Probably the biggest difference I've noticed is:
- Germans actually do wait at until the green man appears when crossing in the street, even if there are no cars on the road, at all! To me, that makes no sense! If the road is empty, just go! - It is this attitude that has probably been the cause of the cross looks & tutting I've been getting from older people.

But all in all, I think I could grow to like it here :)

Friday, 10 May 2013

Question Time, rape apology and a lack of an apology.

I was, as many others were utterly shocked by Jerry Hayes comments on Question Time. When I first heard it, I almost simultaneously broke my laptop, TV and my foot as I jumped up in a fit of anger. Then I took to twitter to express my outrage, posted in my Uni's Women's campaign group Facebook page, and complained to the BBC.
I'm not going to lie, I didn't get a lot of sleep that night (getting angry before going to bed is never a good idea), I woke up and with the Women's campaign group, we set up the petition to try and get him to apologise. Something Mr Hayes is yet to do, (and yet to reply to my tweets informing him so).

Why did the Women's campaign group and I want to set up this petition? Simple.
We do not feel that his comments were acceptable. To say that rape cases that did not end in conviction are "clearly not rape" is down-right wrong. Does every crime that doesn't end in a conviction stop being a crime? No. His comments are severely damaging to those who have experienced, know those who have experienced rape or sexual assault or those who fight for justice. His comments implied that these people are liars, if there is no conviction then there is no rape, therefore the defendant is lying.

In a culture that makes it difficult for survivors to come forward and report this heinous crime, for them to naturally not to be believed, despite the fact the CPS have published a report showing how rare false rape allegations actually are. Mr Hayes comments do nothing to dispel these myths, that are perpetuated by the culture we live in, the media and by MRAs. Furthermore the fact that Mr Hayes is a barrister, works within the judicial system, makes it even more concerning, as it has been well documented how stressful and humiliating the court process can be for the survivor, as shown in many cases, some where the victim has ended up committing suicide because of the ordeal of the courtroom.

The least this event will cause, is an awareness of the attitudes that some people hold about rape cases, maybe the outrage we show will make people think - That's what I'm hoping anyway. We may not get an apology out of Mr Hayes, as shown by his comments earlier today on his blog. I doubt he will really, but hopefully with this petition, we can show our outrage. The fact he mentioned the petition, and the abuse he has been getting on twitter, resulting in him writing that post, must have had an impact - maybe he realises what he said was wrong? - But then again, why won't he just hold his hands up and say sorry I didn't word it better, that's not what I meant. - Maybe he's too stubborn to admit, the wording, the comment, was wrong.

Sadly (for him) I am also stubborn, so I won't stop until we get a proper apology.

So sign & share the petition. The one which apparently Mugabe would be proud of. https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/jerry-hayes-the-bbc-publicly-apologise-for-comments-on-bbcqt-acknowledge-them-as-wrong-2

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

That article by Jack Rivlin

LAD culture, something we see everyday at University, from posts/pictures on Facebook to being shouted at, groped or objectified on campus or in a club. It should be obvious to anyone on campus that this LAD culture is inherently sexist, and these jokes are generally just passed off as 'banter'. If you protest or call them out on their sexism, the general response will be to 'get a sense of humour' or that you 'don't get the banter', or 'it's not sexist, it's just a joke', or even 'shut up and get back in the kitchen'. - I suppose at least that one shows that they realise they're being misogynistic (hopefully anyway), but it's still horrific language. This was common and general knowledge - LAD culture was about drinking until you're paralytic, doing idiotic things, and saying idiotic things that are generally sexist or homophobic - and in my experience from the LADs in halls last year, racist as well.

Then came along Jack Rivlin's article which can be read here in the Telegraph yesterday, protecting and frankly misunderstanding LAD culture and attempting to rip to shreds the NUS's report on the subject 'That's what she said'. Rivlin, who is the editor of the student newspaper the Tab, which is in my opinion the tabloid of student journalism.

He seems to be mansplaining a bit here, telling women what they shouldn't find sexist. And he clearly hasn't properly read the NUS report, maybe he read a summary on it, once, maybe. Maybe he just read the title and left it at that. But that may be giving him too much credit. His conclusion from whatever research he did (which is none I'm assuming), is that the NUS and us man-hating feminists (bringing up that old chestnut, eh Rivlin?) believes that LAD = Rapist.

It doesn't. Nowhere in report, pretty much no feminist, post-2nd wave feminism from the 1970s thinks that. Now I'm going to make this big, to emphasise it.
LAD =/= Rapist.


What LAD culture does do is support rape culture, by normalising rape and VAWG, making it something to laugh at, making jokes about women that make them seem like second-class citizens. The fact that Rivlin doesn't see this is really worrying. By perpetuating and supporting rape culture, it doesn't automatically make you a rapist. We know that, I'm sure you know that - then why doesn't Rivlin know that? & FYI just because you don't know anyone that has been 'slutdropped' doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Slut-shaming is a massive problem and especially within LAD culture. They appear to love sex and yet any girl who feels the same (which they have every right to do) is a slut in their eyes.

My experiences and those of my female friends, as women, can tell Rivlin quite definitely that LAD culture is sexist - it's not the only place where sexism occurs, but with us and the NUS being concerned about Uni (because that is where we are); that is where we are going to write about! We're not jealous of these LADs because they are the 'cool kids in the playground' - that was something we all left behind in highschool, but it seems that Rivlin didn't. - We are trying to combat LAD culture in every way we can because it tries to humiliate, patronise, and knock the confidence of female students. If you're called a slut, or you are called a whale/pig/dog - that is going to hurt your confidence. Being called names, groped, harassed, assaulted just because of your gender is wrong, and this is something that LAD culture does. We are against LAD culture because it is misogynistic.

But then again with me being a feminist, that *obviously* means I hate men, so Rivlin and I; we're not going to see eye-to-eye right? Wrong. I, as Rivlin has also commented, know people who do call themselves as LADs and they don't make sexist jokes (well not when I'm around anyway) - but the few LADs that he knows (because he was once on his Uni's Rugby team and they didn't say anything he considers sexist), and the LADs that I know, cannot speak for the entire of the LAD subculture. The majority of the LADs at our Uni, and at other Uni's, do make sexist jokes, say sexist and misogynistic things, and do misogynistic things. I don't need a man to tell me to 'calm down' and that it's not sexist. IT IS SEXIST.

Or maybe I just don't 'get' the banter.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Brecht - it's a bit of a gushing/incoherent post

I recently finished a module at Uni on Brecht's plays - Die Dreigroschenoper & Die Maßnahme to be precise. I must say I really enjoyed both plays, and especially enjoyed going to see the RSC's performance of Life of Galileo earlier in March, definitely going to read more of his plays and his poems.

Still got to write my essay on the annihilation of individuality in die Maßnahme, so I'm going to talk about die Dreigroschenoper (the Threepenny opera) and Life of Galileo instead. Saying I pretty much didn't know anything about Brecht's plays, even I was amazed at how quickly/how much I 'got' what he was writing about and how much I enjoyed it.

Pretty much everyone recognises, when you hear it probably anyway, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QnXOsnukgo - it was popular in English as Mac the Knife, but I think one of my favourite songs is probably Seeräuber Jenny Pirate Jenny http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvFRhRo1nc0 - Really worth listening too.

Brecht used epic theatre, which has many meanings, but it's different from other theatre, you don't go to enjoy the piece, you go to observe, learn and question your views/morals/life.
Like there was a bit in Life of Galileo, well I'll explain a couple of bits which really stuck in my and my classmates' minds:
1) There was a part when a Bishop or Cardinal, Barberini, was at a masquerade ball, he said:
You too, my friend, should have come here in disguise—as a respectable doctor of
scholastic philosophy. It's my mask that allows me a little freedom tonight.
When I wear it, you may even hear me murmuring: If God did not exist, we
should have to invent Him. Well, let's put our masks on again. Poor Galilei
hasn't got one.
A Cardinal saying that humans invented God? But of course, because he's got his mask on it doesn't really count as him saying that right? Or maybe not. - It's there to show the hypocrisy of the Church, well I think it is anyway, but it's probably my favourite line of the play.
2) There was a part, a little before the part I just explained, when the actor narrating the fat monk after the scene, comes out to do the next one and takes off his outer costume revealing the fat suit he's wearing underneath. To show that they are not playing the characters they are merely representing them. It's to stop the audience just enjoying the play, getting sucked into it. Brecht wanted the audience to know they were watching a play. The actors are demonstrating the roles, they are not being the roles.

Epic theatre also takes all of the drama out of theatre, it's no longer sensational. Brecht takes all of the tension/action that normally builds throughout a scene or the play away. This is most evident in die Maßnahme where there is no dramatic action at all, but it is also evident in die Dreigroschenoper, with when a character entering a scene they'd explain who they were, why they were there, or what happened previously to someone else, why that happened etcetera. It takes out all of the mystery, again so you can focus on the more important aspects of the theatre.

Epic theatre is theatre that is supposed to represent life. Like in Opera, you'd get a dying man singing about his death which would never happen in reality. Hence why none of this happens in epic theatre. Even with the song Seeräuber Jenny, the song is introduced by Polly, and also by the narrator - who even explains what each song is about before it is sung (how very epic!).

To sum up this, 'I'm tired but I need to blog and I've been listening to songs from Brecht plays for hours now, so I'll blog about my growing love for Brecht' post. You should definitely read Brecht plays, die Dreigroschenoper is one of his most well-known plays and is enjoyable, even if you're not learning about why different things are happening etc. But I think even if I was reading them for leisure, I'd have to go on and research them further just because it is so damn interesting. So much so, that even though my module has finished (once I've finished my essay for it anyway), I'm still going to carry on reading Brecht plays and poems, already put some more plays in my wishlist/need to buy list on Amazon! - namely 'Mother Courage and her Children' and 'the Good Person of Szechwan'.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

'Feminazi' - offensive?

Events today, over the #TYFA and twitter generally, brought up the ignorance of some people, who think Feminazi is an inoffensive word, and not being related to the Nazis (-personally I thought the clue was in the word itself, being a portmanteau of the nouns Feminist and Nazi (thank you Wikipedia for the fancy word for compound!)) - but apparently it's not that obvious.

The way I see it, it does have connotations with Nazism, and excuse the undergrad understanding of Nazism (probably not a very good description at all), is the want of separating society into a 'us' and the 'them' mentality. Thereby improving, or seemingly improving life by 'us' controlling and making sure that 'them' can't further destroy society, which 'us' are now trying to make better by excluding 'them' and, eventually annihilating them.

For the record, for me the annihilation only became an option half way through the Nazi regime - say when the war started, and wasn't one of the aims of Nazism originally, mostly because it became obvious at this point that Hitler's aim of Lebensraum and resettlement could not co-exist when the war started, simply because the further East the Nazis went, the more Jews they found etc. I should stop this argument, it's all debatable and it's a bit of a tangent, and something I should keep for my History essays.

Anyway yes, this idea of the whole 'us' versus 'them' mentality, is a reason why I find the word Feminazi so offensive (other than being identified as a Nazi, with all the inhuman things that they did, which I'm not going into details to on here, everyone knows about the Holocaust). Putting together the 'us' vs. 'them' mentality with feminism, just perpetuates the idea that feminism is about matriarchy or that we are all misandrists - some are misandrists, but the pretty much every misandrist is not so extreme to the point of segregation and extermination - something which the word Feminazi suggests. These are just stereotypes started by the right-wing media, who are distressed that they - middle-class, straight, white men - may have to give up some of their privilege and power.

Matriarchy is something which the vast majority of feminists definitely do not want!- we want equality.

EQUALITY. EQUALITY. EQUALITY EQUALITY. I can't say it enough.

To sum up:
Yes, the term Feminazi is offensive to me:
1) it compares the fight for equality to one of the worst dictatorships/ human tragedy in human history.
2) It makes all Feminists sound like they want to kill all men, which isn't true, as many feminists have fathers, sons, brothers, male friends, cousins etc - so I'm not even going to bother arguing this one, it should be pretty obvious.

It really got up in my grill. - to quote Made in Chelsea.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

I feel I have the right to be angry

Maybe it's because I go out more when I'm at Uni, but I always seem to notice sexism a lot more here. My friends here describe me as, and I quote 'a docile dragon, but as soon as someone says something slightly sexist...' and here is where it is better spoken than written 'ROAAAARRR, then you become a fire-breathing angry dragon'. Which I suppose is true, I do get angry when I hear something misogynistic said, I don't explode at the smallest thing, which I probably should as how else will people learn? Amiright? But when someone says something blatantly sexist, or tells a rape/DV/misogynistic i.e. 'get back in the kitchen' 'joke', then surely I have the right to be angry?

Now I know my friends said it in good faith, because (I feel because of me) they have started doing something similar, (my little feminist proteges!) but I do understand what they mean, and why for an observer it probably is funny, but at least people are learning from my rants. I think my anger is justified. I don't feel I should just stand by and let people tell these horrific jokes/say these sexist things, they should know why what they say is offensive and just plain wrong. As someone who identifies as a feminist, then I feel I should be the one who tells them. No, I want to be the one who tells them, having done research on bits, reading other people's blogs, I feel more clued up and ready to take on any counter-argument.

Really I'm almost disappointed that more people don't call people out on what they say, when they do say something offensive. I know people don't like confrontation, but surely a simple 'excuse me? what did you just say?!' to at least show disgust, or not laughing when someone tells a sexist joke, just to show your dislike. Surely that's enough!

I don't know, maybe it is just me, but I feel I have the right to be angry, because some of the things that people say, they should know that it is not acceptable to say some of the things that they do, and they need to be put right.

Because we all have the right to live in a world where we feel confident in our safety, and living in a world where people feel it is OK to make sexist comments and just brush them off as if they were nothing, then I don't feel safe. As it all adds to the ideas that women are inferior, or that they are just playthings for men, which is a reason for all of the shit that women have to go through.