#meToo

As allegations against Harvey Weinstein come forward I praise all the women willing to speak about their experiences and the culture in the show-biz. At the same time I am disgusted and disappointed by all those lying to protect their public image or criticising people speaking up, saying things like “why didn’t you say something sooner”. This is the perfect response for that wrong-twisted argument.

Unfortunately, that is not the only industry with predators, they are all around us in every place. Alyssa Milano was absolutely right to re-initiate the #meToo discussion to show how much sexual abuse lies in our societies. I am 35 at the time of writing this post and during my lifetime I have encountered a fair share:

  • I have been groped in the street. Walking in Oxford Street in the middle of the day a guy walking in the opposite direction grabbed my boob. I was not wearing anything outstanding. Walking in Sri Lanka I got slapped in my bump by a guy passing me on a motorbike, again my clothes were not flashy. On both occasions I immediately felt ashamed and wondered if it was my fault, what is wrong with our society that we tend to have those thoughts as the first reaction…
  • At a seminar one attendee came to sit besides me during one of the breaks. He asked me questions about the event, it was the middle of the day, there were people around so I engaged in conversation. After a few minutes he says: “Spanish women like to party, do you want to have sex with me?” while leaning on me. I told him I found that very rude and out of order and I asked him to leave, which he did, not without saying first he didn’t understand the problem. I did tell him for me it was not an appropriate comment and he was making me uncomfortable. I don’t think my patience and courage trying to educate him made much difference to him because about an hour later another attendee experienced something similar…
  • At work I have had senior managers and colleges making unwanted comments/acts. Sometimes a simple laugh to a joke can make people think they can make an advance, and I am talking about friendly conversation, not flirting
  • Cat calling, intense looking, walking in the streets is not an everyday event but it does happen to me sometimes and I personally find it intimidating and displeasing
  • Plus a few strong physical actions that I rather don’t describe here

Implying like Donna Karan that depending on your clothes you would attract sexual assault is offensive, total hypocrisy from someone using sex as part of the promotion of her work and a proof of sexism in women. To me that is the worst kind of sexism of all.  Mayim Bialik has also implied that the key is staying away from predators, don’t go to a place that could be compromising, don’t wear clothes that could attract attention, don’t be naive and you will be safe. She acknowledges that there is no excuse for sexual assault but all these conditions that she offers for her success avoiding abuse have a big pitfault.

Not all predators wear a T-shirt saying “look out, I will do whatever I want regardless of what you want”.  Some people (men and I am sure some women) only care about what they want and they would assault to a fellow human being regardless of:

  • what the other person wears – I’m really fed up with this argument. Someone could be walking naked on the street, that doesn’t give anyone any right to abuse them in any way. If we could all agree on that the blame culture of not condemning someone for rape because the victim wore jeans would fade away. It is the people that see others as objects to satisfy whatever urges they have whom should be singled out and condemned
  • the environment they are in – there is a lot of talk about going to rooms/staying alone with someone as an indicator of assault when in reality it happens anywhere, alone or surrounded by people. How many of us have been clapped in the ass or boob-grabbed in the street or a club? That is and should also be treated like assault even if it is not an extreme act like rape
  • what the other person looks like – anything can tip them off, maybe having a bad day and wanting to compensate it with sex and someone just passes by? a personal trait that reminds them of someone else and triggers a memory they want to offset by exercising a power position over that person
  • Unfortunately sometimes is just being in a place at the wrong time, how on earth do you prevent that? not even staying at home would save you if the abuser is a family member

Sexual assault is a crime not properly addressed by society. The fact that presenters at gala’s (or any other place) are willing to make jokes on the back of it and predators are rewarded with positions of power are just proofs of how poorly understood and prosecuted it is. Anyone with this kind of behaviour in any industry or social group should be outcasted. 

For those thinking that a bit of flirting or banter wouldn’t hurt anyone I repeat, this is not about your intention but how your action affects the receiver, it is never only about you. When in doubt keep in mind the following basic principles:

  • Know the person before you say/do something, everyone has different levels of boundaries and what someone may consider a joke others may find deeply offensive or intimidating. If you are not sure of how your action would be taken, don’t do or say anything! Be respectful over what you may think is flirty/funny
  • Most important of all, don’t insist, one rejection (as a joke, comment or soft/extreme reaction) is plenty and means you have crossed already the boundary with that person, otherwise you would have got a positive response of some sort… Don’t keep coming back, that is definitely uncalled for and predator/stalking behaviour 

In a decent world everyone would stand up to predators, men and women alike. It is important to understand consent. As women I think our role in shaking up things and demanding people to know what consent and physical boundaries mean is even more important, even if this lesson should have been learned by now… Not only to support those that have been victims but to educate everyone on how people should behave and how we should be treated by others. Women don’t only influence our surrounding women but also the men that we interact with, either at work, at home, the circle of friends or family members. We need to spread the right thinking, even if sometimes requires uncomfortable discussions and challenging people on things they may see very differently and therefore argue against.

If someone hasn’t been the victim of sexual assault they should feel lucky and full stop because it is not what you do or not do to attract them, it’s just being lucky enough not to encounter them or to escape on time if you do. Something we all can do is teaching and demanding people to respect their fellow human beings, to stop covering up and implicitly endorse predator behaviour. I don’t mean outing experiences per se, that is a personal choice, but engage in constructive conversation to enforce how important changing perceptions is to make a shift of consciousness and real change. And this goes for women and men, there are men that are respectful and supportive, they just need to stand up at every corner and call people out when required.

 

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If Margareth Thatcher had been progressive

I fully disagree with The Iron Lady's policies but I have to acknowledge her leadership skills, even more impressive considering how hard it was for a woman to be listened to during her time and unfortunately also now. As Obama said she was an example that there is no glass ceiling for women. Her terms were full of privatisations, deregulation, fights to diminish union's rights, demonisation of poors, denial of the idea of society and the rise of individualism as justification to social cuts (technique Cameron is using nowadays to reduce social welfare and restrict immigration). According to Owen Jones she is responsible for the current UK's class division. A country that nowadays is divided between the people that caused the global crisis without having any punishment for it and the working class suffering austerity cuts without any fault on the situation the global and local economy is in.

She was a leader outside United Kingdom due to her role in a new way of understanding government. It is called neoliberalism but in simple terms is a system where big companies and multinationals control economy and politics, reducing laws to their own benefit with the excuse that companies with more freedom generate more jobs, trickle down economics as Reagan called it. However history shows that more deregulation implies less control on human greed and since humans chair companies they put their search for bigger profits over working and society rights. Neoliberalism also supports reduction of government's control although many of its defenders approve laws that give government control over women reproductive rights, or who are you able to marry. Introducing government in such private issues doesn't seem much liberal but somehow they have manage it to stick.

Perhaps if Ms Thatcher had had progressive ideals her terms would have guaranteed nationalisation and access to first need services (water, electricity but also health and education), understood society as the collaboration among all classes and regulations would have been put in place to make sure companies obtain profits in a reasonable way, not exploiting working class. Maybe we would have a capitalist system with classes nearer to each other and a real possibility for moving up the ladder. And since it would have been implemented in the UK, it would have spread to other countries and right now we wouldn't be in a financial crisis originated by the deregulation started by her.

However it is more likely that should her been progressive she wouldn't have made it to the top because left movements tend to constantly disagree with each other and hardly offer an unified front as Beatriz Talegon Leader of Socialist Youth said. Furthermore companies would have lobbied strongly against anyone dearing to challenge them, recurring to defamation or bribery as they have done with all political parties on the north hemisphere according to Stéphane Hessel. Since almost anyone has a price, in the current system is very hard for someone honest and willing to put society first making it to the top and stay there enough time to change things. In the end as Owen Jones says current politics is just class war, wealthy against everyone else. Wealthy introduced themselves into conservative and progressive parties, often representing “the markets” and manage to create policy to privitise everything to their own benefit. When the crisis started and the financial void had to be filled politicians chose forcing citizens to pay the bill because corruption is part of the system and economical and political powers are one and the same after many years of partnership.

All this has happened on our watch. This is not an ideology argument, is a fight for the chances of having a decent life despite of being conservative, progressive, liberal or moderate. The social ladder is vanishing in front of us due to cuts on social services and raising of living costs. Instead of a ladder with different levels is becoming a two level system with low and middle classes below and the wealthy on the top of the ladder enjoying spectacular views. Being poor shouldn't be the reason for which a person dies. All society and countries should unite and demand a system more just and regulated that guarantees everyone's basic rights. Thatcher's individualism has penetrated so much in our minds that we don't realise it is today's selfishness, “if I am good I don't care how people are”. It is easier living only caring about ourselves, thinking that progressive and socialist ideologies want to take our money to give it to people that don't deserve it although they are trying to make sure everyone has a shot to a decent life. Humans group themselves into societies because union makes strength. A business won't be successful without clients nor existing infrastructure previously built with taxes as USA senator Elizabeth Warren said. However individualism has spread across the world and while everyone minds their own business wealthy people takes what belongs to everyone.

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Getting angry is not enough. Major conservative and progressive parties are using the financial crisis as the excuse to diminish middle class rights. Applying austerity measures to the ones that need more help while the people that created and profited from the crisis are at large and getting richer and richer. We have to stop voting parties that have promoted these policies. Stop looking at ourselves and join our fellow citizens to unify the front. We are the majority. We just have to show it. Stop thinking one person doesn't make a difference, Margareth Thatcher was only one person; after all every sum begins with the number one.

 

Do you live better than five years ago?

Do you feel you are living better than 5 years ago? Do you think Government is doing all it should to protect its citizens? Or is it providing for the big companies and multinationals instead? Is austerity a necessary step towards a better growing economy or just an excuse to devaluate labour salaries while companies’ profits rise?

For many years societies fought for their labour and social rights through mobilisations in the streets and working places. Unions were created to guarantee minimum safety rules at places of work and minimum salaries that allowed a decent life. Economies were growing bit by bit through a moderated consumerism, but it was not fast enough for some. Mrs Thatcher was the first proposing in the 70’s that governments shouldn’t provide subsidies or benefits for jobs; she reduced the amount of public jobs available whilst privatising and deregulating many industries in particular the financial sector, under the pretext that companies know what is best and they can regulate themselves. USA (with Ronald Reagan first and Alan Greenspan and others repeatedly using the same argument) and many industrialised countries followed that approach. However whilst they were promoting this change as a necessary step to guarantee fast economic growth, people failed to realise that companies base their existence in obtaining profits at all cost and without rules to control their actions a voluntarily morality check wouldn’t do the trick. Banks, one of the deregulated industries that has impulsed the world economy over the last 20 years is the perfect example; they started creating their own products and marketing them as if they were the safest thing on earth and anyone that wouldn’t invest in the stock market or a mortgage was not of this age.

Then Leman Brothers fell, all banks took their investments away leaving “poorer” banks with huge holes provoked by foreign banks over exposure that governments decided to cover, because after all they were playing with everyone’s money. Now that workers have bailed them out and their deficits have come up to the surface it seems they have found a new way of filling their void and help multinationals at the same time which are their main partners in the world economy. They are obtaining more profits while consumerism stays the same by reducing worker’s salaries and benefits so they could pass those savings into their pockets as profits. A clear example of this strategy is strongly happening in South Europe with examples across the continent.

Due to a lack of stimulation of innovation and industry South of Europe based all its economy around the housing and construction bubble, which was the easiest option in our culture since everyone prefers putting the same money towards owning the house rather than renting and it is easier for politicians letting the bubble grow instead of finding ways of developing innovative industry like Northern countries which requires more thinking. In Spain in particular, for 30 years our politicians had been selling public industry at a low price, building disproportioned infrastructures to give contracts to big construction companies keeping a part of the investment for themselves, privatising all they could and keeping a close relationship with multinationals and banks modifying labour and social laws to their benefit. When the financial crisis started and our banks lost all the foreign capital that they had been misusing to invest into more houses, we had to bail them out. This investment of public money hasn’t been returned nor is flowing into the economy (as we were promised to give credit to small companies) it has stayed within the banks so they could cover their indecencies and pay back their creditors. Now since millions are out of job companies with politicians’ help are blaming all our problems on our lack of productivity, saying that we were living above our possibilities and they need to cut our salaries and the benefits we had paid for during years with our taxes to pay for the financial debt and become competitive. All with the excuse stated in an Excel document that to have a prosper economy national debt should be under 3% of GDP. The same document that a University student was able to dismantle finding inconsistencies in the method of calculation; history has shown that in a time of reduced private investment governments are the ones that have to invest in the economy to provide jobs for people and for private companies, otherwise less jobs lead to less demand, which leads to less jobs in an infinite down way spiral.

Everyone from a Southern European country would admit that we are not as organised as in the North. We work many hours a day but we don’t manage our work as efficiently as we could; partly because we are quite good at improvising at the last minute and we rely on that gift to loose a bit of time and then do everything the last days and partly because while North European societies were learning management methodologies for projects (PRINCE2, PMBOK) or for processes (Six Sigma, Lean) most of South European companies decided not to invest in high technology nor training for their employees, assuming that they would get efficient by force of working less people the same amount of work instead of learning efficiency techniques. If the root of the problem is our productivity, why aren’t we trained on how to improve our work instead of devaluating our salaries and make us poorer?. If the reason is that we lived above our possibilities, why there is no punishment for banks lending above their possibilities and giving loans to people that clearly were not going to give it back? Why there hasn’t been implemented any new strong regulation that prohibits this from happening again? People spend because banks gave them loans even to go on holidays, and banks gave it to gain more profit not to make a favour to a greedy person (that leaving a side the millions of people that got a loan to pay normal things because they live on a minimum wage that is not enough for the cost of living nowadays). I would like that everyone had common sense but not everyone has the same level of intelligence or self-control. Governments should regulate industries to protect societies from big bullies like banks or multinationals and silly greedy people that spend more than they have or want to steal another’s savings.

One can conclude that multinationals want cheap working labour in Europe; governments scared under the perspective of all companies outsourcing their jobs to developing countries accept these new measures and apply them. At the end this is a problem between rich and poor. Until there are no poor countries willing to accept any deal because a bad deal is better for their economy than no deal, industrialised countries will have this dilemma. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other solutions. I wouldn’t suggest that people have to stop buying from those companies because that would imply that our shopping list would become much more expensive, and being realistic we have to look for our money. But there is something that would force companies to treat every country with more respect: governments could demand that every company that wants to sell its products in their country must have a manufacturing facility in that country and apply the same selling prices in all countries with similar GDP to avoid they inflate the price and pass on the cost of production in that country to the buyer. This would work for final products such as clothing; for other products as groceries another measures could be put forward like requiring distributers to invest part of their profits in each country where they sell because not every country can grow potatoes but we all consume them. To guarantee that companies provide national decent wages while selling at a competitive price the law should include the obligation of doing so unless they have had four consecutive quarters of net loss, in which case a new salary could be negotiated always with workers approval and being applied to all roles, to minimise job cuts or depreciation of low skilled jobs as unique measure. This way we are also protecting companies profits allowing them to renegotiate and also workers. As for banks and remaining deregulated industries, they need to be regulated again strongly in every country to guarantee they grow applying economic principles instead of dubious techniques.

For some this may be an interventionist state, maybe some called it communism or something worse. After this crisis and all the suffering is bringing to millions of people I think it is better having a government protecting its working force’s rights to a proper salary and decent way of life rather than companies using salaries and prices only to their best convinience. We have to keep in mind that companies earn because we buy, we should use our power as buyers and stop being taken advantage of, with companies taking our money from their sells and now from our salaries while we are making them profitable. Otherwise we will keep transferring wealth from the middle and working classes to the elites until there are only two classes, very poor and very rich.