Category Archives: equality

Joys of public transport

The ‘great British summer’ has arrived. This means, having peaked at midsummer, it will gradually get dark early and early every evening from now onward. In the meanwhile, it’s been drippy wet and mediocre warm.

The strange thing is although temperatures are fairly moderate they are starting to soar on public transport as the heat gets in and it doesn’t get out. Also there are a lot more people on the trains. I thought they would all go on holiday but it seems they holiday in the Big Smoke. Moreover, the workers instead of riding bicycles or something into work seem wary of impeding rain and are all also on the train with me.

I miss my bicycle a lot but I really do stay too far now to use it daily.

Instead, the last two days into work, I seem to be seated next to Sick Boy. Bonus: I got a seat. Penalty: It’s next to patient zero. And it’s not hayfever when in addition to sniffling and nose blowing there are deep throaty coughs every now and then with a sort of wheezy sound in the background. It hasn’t been the same Sick Boy, but they were both young and twenty something ish so maybe they all hang out together in some uber cool underground bar somewhere passing germs around with other uber cool people.

The evening journey home last night was something else in a different way. I was on one of the flip up jump seats near the door. Three different girls with long hair all sat down next to me for only a few stops each. Everyone one of them had their very long hair loose. I kept thinking there was a bug crawling on my arm. Until I realised it was because their hair, which was sooo not part of my personal space, was brushing up against me and tickling me. They were then replaced by a girl with a bob. Who seemed normal enough until she kept trying to shuffle closer and closer to me til apparently our thighs were meant to align. She’d realise this and then sort of wiggle slightly back again.

Thing is, I double checked, I was quite clearly in my seat. And I couldn’t shuffle further down so she could have part of my seat because Candy Crush guy on the other side of me had his elbow partially in my airspace.

Poor girl. She didn’t look that big but I realised look at her again, she was the epitome of pear shaped childbearing. And I think a bit of her was coming off the seat on the other side and getting in the way of people by the door. Thing is, that’s not really my fault.

Anymore than if you are over six foot and have to sit in an economy seat next to me or crouch bent over on the train over me. Or have a really big penis and have to sit with your legs sprawled apart. Or really big boobs that mean you can’t cross your arms over but they use up my half of the armrest.

I realise that perhaps some of these problems are not your fault and I have a limited sympathy. But that is limited because I can’t reach the tops of supermarket shelves and tall people do not often help me. I don’t get extra baggage allowance even though I weigh less than half of the heaviest person on a plane as a rule. I have to take up the hem on almost everything I own, I can’t just buy stuff off the shelf and it fits.

And yes, I can give up some room to you, often I do. But then you take advantage and use up the ENTIRE armrest plus part of the air above my lap.

And actually, I pay the same amount as you do even if I don’t use up the same amount of space. That’s genetics for you. Maybe it sucks and it’s unfair. But it’s unfair for me too because there are cars I can’t drive and you can because I can’t adjust the seat enough to reach the pedals and see over the top. Life isn’t about being fair. And neither is public transport. It’s not the great leveller. If you could, you too would be in an aircon car all the way, wouldn’t you?

 

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Filed under anecdote, equality, modern living, travel

Justifications of Colonialism

I did an obscure English module on African literature. One of the books was Heart of Darkness, which was not really ‘African’ but boring as hell and written from a white patriarchal viewpoint. This was followed by Things Fall Apart which I preferred but also detested as the other extreme.

It reinforced how I generally have issues with books written about the ‘dark continent’, especially if the literature moves southwards to places and people I may recognise.

I’m just finishing Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. I sent an interview she did to a friend of mine who hilariously pointed out how the American interviewer kept referring to her time in ‘Africa’ and she kept going ‘no, just Malawi, Zim and Zaire’. Because, of course, to many abroad, Africa is just one very large country, treating it like the old Soviet Union or China, no discrimination placed on the different tribes and cultures within the large landmass.

The book pulled at my heartstrings because she, like me, will always associate herself with Africa, no matter how long she is away. Ironically so does her father although he only moved there after meeting her mother there on a gap year. This is what the continent does to you.

Near the end of the book is the description of the Zimbabwe I heard about in my childhood, the one where people condescendingly said the country would fall apart as land was repossessed, displacing farmers and their staff, many who had been on the land for decades and knew nowhere else.

It was like Gone with the Wind all over again. The stories of how farm clinics, schools, stores were all shut as the whites had to pull out and fend for themselves leaving behind those in need they had always protected. The argument being freedom has been granted, all men are equal now. The reality that the unequal system also offered protection to those least educated, least able to support themselves. Just as you took care of your property, you took care of the assets on it.

Of course in the long run this is unfair. But so is a blanket land repossession that just displaces everyone there before and offers no protection to the weak.

I’m not sure what the solution is. How does a government manage a slow transition turning farms into cooperatives where people aren’t scared off the places they have lived for years ? How do you educate and be educated in how to manage a large farm rather than a series of sharecropping plots, where people all benefit from the prosperity of good land management and a more equal society?

Oh, there are token examples spread about but these are the exceptions not the rule. In many cases these farmlands were better sustained under their previous owners who’d had decades to learn how to manage large properties.

I worry that my country, my beloved country, could undergo a similar renaissance. And it’s not that I don’t want every man, woman, child, to have equal right to water, housing, education, a place to call home. I just don’t know how you do that fairly.

And how you explain to those receiving that it also means this gift comes with the caveat that ownership also means sacrifice. That when something truly is yours you have to be willing to suffer through the bad times too, there is no government, no baas, no guarantees to social assistance.

Because this is Africa. And these are not first world issues but tangled third world ones with generations of hate, history, oppression only slowly dissipating away.

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Filed under balance, book review, equality, Housing, learning

On equality gone mad

I read a blog the other day and left a comment that perhaps the ‘troll’ who had acted all snippy to the blogger was simply feeling frustrated at being left out of the process of being a woman. Because, of course, all men want to be part of uncomfortable high heel shoes, stress about grey hair, once a month cramps and bleeding and childbirth. Apparently there was a woman in action event in the States and although a few men did go, they were obviously outnumbered. I thought the person who was against the writer was being rather unfair as men had been invited to the event, just not encouraged. I thought my current office was a bit unfair when they had a women in industry lunch they didn’t even let the men sit in if they wanted to for a free lunch. (Believe me, those men who would have dared to turn up would have been very quiet as there are some real dragons in this office who would have eaten them alive for sexism)

She wrote back a statement that she felt that women had been discriminated enough in the past and we deserved to have all women events with no XY chromosomes present – or something to that effect¬†–¬†because of what had happened to us in the past. Excuse me? Her past? My past? We are both fortunate enough to live in first world countries who have hopefully evolved far enough to realise what the word discrimination means even if the XY chromosome earns more than the XX one.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been trying to hold regular weekend lunches with my old team every few months. Although the team had men in it, they are mostly banned from attending or don’t want to. Additional extras in the forms of plus ones are definitely discouraged. As the one girl put it, she didn’t want smugly attached with significant other attached while we bitched about work and men. This was OUR time.

Neither do I want men in my change room at the gym or helping me out in the lingerie department. And to be honest, I would prefer if it is a full body massage you have boobs, real ones that might lactate, not just because you are fat.

But I didn’t agree we need formal all women clubs. I want to be able to go to the old all boys clubs, so how can I then exclude them from the womans’ ones. And lets face it, the boys clubs are more fun. They have single malt whisky and leather chairs and maybe strippers. The womens ones will just be about where to get botox and look how fat she’s got since she had kids in pastel colours with dainty china teacups and slender infinitely thin wine glasses instead of satisfying clunky crystal tumblers.

Likewise, I believe there ARE certain tasks better suited to certain sexes. Honestly, men are usually taller and stronger than women. That is why I keep them around. They can reach the top shelf in the kitchen and lift the heavy boxes for me. In return, because I have longer nails, I’ll unpick the knots on the rope that have been too tightly tied and even if I have a fear of heights, suffer to be the idiot on someone’s shoulders changing the lightbulb in the absence of ladder because I am lighter. I will ask for directions when we are lost so you don’t have to admit you didn’t know.

I don’t know why more jockeys aren’t women (probably as I don’t know enough about horse racing). We are naturally smaller with a lighter muscle mass. I prefer male fitness instructors. They are generally more engaged with their clients and push you harder while having a better sense of humour. (of course, I am GENERALISING)

The fact of the matter is evolution has meant we are different. If we weren’t we’d have to multiply like amoeba or earthworms which is not nearly as much fun. Of course women shouldn’t be considered less than men. But use your brain. Don’t confuse chivalry for sexism, keep everyone included and celebrate the differences.

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Filed under equality, modern living, Relationships