Commuting Outliers

One thing that frustrates me about this country are the people employed to tell foreigners “your instincts are off. The things you call ‘rude’ or ‘inconsiderate’ or ‘anti-social’ are laden with your cultural baggage. Those things are actually POLITE in Denmark. Taking offense or feeling upset are inappropriate reactions. Danes are just like that. YOU are the problem. ”

Because it is so untrue as to be dangerous. If it is cultural cohesion you are looking for, making Danes out to be monsters or savages or special needs somehow, reinforces the Us and Them issue enormously.

There are Danes who can behave considerately or selflessly or kindly to strangers. We tend to marry those ones. Or we work with them. Or meet them at badminton club. And we say “I don’t mean you” when discussing culture shock. As if the Danes with manners are the exceptions and not these shit cocks we don’t know.

Observe one of ‘your’ Danes when encountering a rude one. They tell them off, they mutter, they accidentally on purpose shove them. If they don’t confront them at all and the interested foreigner asks about the situation, they say “ugh, they were some asshole from Copenhagen/Jutland. They don’t know how to behave because they are a penis.”

Now the only reason that I bring all this up (after all, I have been here five years and to a large extent I have gone native and don’t give a flying fuck about the Rudes anymore), is that I commute by train into Aarhus at rush hour.

On my train, there are some familiar faces. I smile at these people. They smile back. They initiate the smiles about half the time. We let each other out when de-training. Those waiting at Aarhus stand back and let us off and give us ample room to do so. This extends to non regulars too.

But later in the day, day trippers and other casual rail users: it is totally different. They cannot conceive of needs other than their own. They cannot predict the movements of others (so they walk on collision course). They exhibit extreme selfishness.

Now, don’t come and tell me being inconsiderate is cultural and not liking it is imperialistic. There is nothing culturally distinct about those commuters on my train. They just know better and so they do better. They understand how their behaviour impacts on the community and alter it to fit.

The Noble Savage explanation is poor. Though the resulting advice “suck it up, it’s not going to change for you” is probably sound.

Next time a Dane is a public nuisance, just laugh at them. Openly or inwardly. As you would a peasant fresh off the haycart back home. They don’t know any better, they probably don’t mean any harm and your nonverbal social pressure is the only language they understand.

Let’s Deport Everyone

The present administration has been in place for a couple of years now.

When people complained that unfair deportations were taking place before they got in, we were pacified with “just wait, new red government coming in, it’ll be okay!”

When the new red government got in, we were pacified with “Oh for heaven’s sake, give them some time to get their feet under the table.”

The deportations and denial of residence are still going on.

Here are some children being refused residence because they need to apply from another country.

Here is a family who need to move to Germany because the Dane claimed a sickness benefit. Looks like the wife didn’t have enough media-sympathy points (Non-white, female, unwell) and so the whole family must leave.

Because those are just the rules! (Unless you are male and white and able bodied and working a prestigious job and then exceptions may be found if your media campaign gets traction.)

This news article says that the number of children refused residence has plummeted to six on the grounds of integration and 130 overall.

You cannot, sorry Denmark, say that children have a human right to family life and that they need to be protected from uncertainty and stress and the best place for a child is near its friends and loved ones and THEN pat yourself on the back for kicking out ‘only’ 130 of them.

So, I did what you said. I waited to see how the new administration would handle things. And while there may be fewer completely unacceptable breaches of human rights, that is still not good enough and I continue to maintain that this country is xenophobic and sick.

The World’s Most Specific Minor Gripe

I love trying new things out with my students and in 2013, this means signing up to different websites to use in my teaching.

They all do something a bit different. Classdojo is for behaviour management through giving out points. Wikispaces is so that students can collaborate on their written work. Edmodo is facebook for schools. Showbie is a way of handing work in that you did on an ipad. For example.

There are many more and I use them semi-regularly. One problem is that children need multiple logins and they forget them very easily. Another problem is that there are so many educational apps and online services out there, they are really keen to keep you as a user.

What happens is that if you sign up, you get a cheery email from a named person offering help. Then if you do not use the app for a few days, you get another email from them. And if you email back to explain why you didn’t use the app yet, you get a form response not addressing anything you said. And you get regular updates (and you cannot always switch them off). And then in September, when I have been back at work for a month already, you get a bunch of emails about getting ready for a new term.

There is no button for deleting an account so once you’re in, you are in.

I have a filter set up now, so that I don’t have to deal with it but every time I set up a new account to check out the possibilities, the whole cycle begins again.

High Heels in DK

Last night, I went out with my colleagues who come from all over the world. There was only one person wearing heels. One of the group remarked on it and I looked around and I couldn’t see any heels around me in the streets.

Århus Festuge, stiletto warning sign
© Karin Holt

This would have been highly unusual back home in London. The number of times I have seen women tottering and stumbling behind their male colleagues in the tunnels of the tube was extraordinary. (Admittedly, I didn’t notice the ones who are keeping up). Many of my colleagues wore heels to work. On a night out, a woman looks out of place without heels on.

Meanwhile, in London, women are shouted and beeped at daily by men. Sexual harassment occurs if you are too sexy, not sexy enough or anything in between. Very few human females are invisible: those under the age of around 10 and those over the age of 35, the visibly disabled etc. Though if some men, the sort of men who are into this, find women from outside those ranges especially sexually attractive/disgusting, they will make that clear.

I think there is a link. Where a society requires a certain level of femininity, females are openly harassed to enforce these requirements. Women who are too sexy are harassed to make it clear that they are still beneath those who ride around in unmarked vans feeling shit about their lives, even if they look good enough to fuck. Women who are not sexy enough are harassed to make it clear that they need to look attractive enough to fuck. That is all we are in the minds of those men. Potential fucktoys.

Where on earth would they get that idea?

Look at countries that go the opposite way, where femininity includes covering up, doing what you are told and staying silent. Women are harassed for not being ‘modest’ enough (and forcing men to want to fuck them), whatever they do. Because all we are measured on are the boners we generate.

In Denmark, the markers of femininity are different and the pressure to be the right amount of sexy is more subtle. There is still plenty of sexual objectification but less harassment. There are enforced standards of dress but they are different depending on age.

At my age, there are a set of clear standards. Heels are optional, very high heels are commented upon to put social pressure on the woman to stop wearing them. Make up is optional. Revealing clothing is frowned upon but tight clothing is fine whatever your body shape.

I do not miss heels. I have some but I do not do well on them. I trip, I get blisters, I get knee and back pain. Every now and then, I get a kick out of wearing a nice pair but I must be able to walk in them. I must be able to run in them. Women are more at risk from people they know but the risk from strangers is still there. Along with the very small risk of disasters that necessitate running. Along with the reasonably significant risk of needing to suddenly get out of the way of a vehicle when crossing the road.

I will only wear heels to things where I will mostly be sitting and I actually cannot remember the last time I wore any. Well over a year ago. The thing about heels is that they infantilise you. Your movement is restricted and you need a lot of help and support to go about your daily business. A lot of people like the way they make their body feel and look and a lot of people like seeing them on others. Who am I to criticise?

The lovely Emily McClean likes being taken care of. She likes being damselled and rescued. Each to their own.

But she goes further in her column to say that Danish women are rejecting men by acting as full adults, that they swarm, that they wear grey androgynous sacks and suggests that they have a duty to wear shoes they cannot walk in so that men have a chance to shepherd their dates.

She describes these swarms of people ‘feminists’ as if that says it all. As if ‘feminist’ means a shapeless grey woman who wants to kill every boner.

Let’s all take a moment to listen to Caitlin Moran

“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of Brisbane women – I used to think, what do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit get on your nerves? Or were you drunk at the time of the survey?”

As far as I know, Caitlin Moran wears colourful clothes and heels. Lots of feminists, even in Denmark, do. Feminism isn’t about killing boners, it is about being more than simply sexually alluring at all times.

If you are having a deep and loving relationship with someone who likes that in a partner, why not indulge them once in a while? Or if you like that sort of thing, find someone who will indulge you. Even better, get together with someone who shares your interest and go nuts.

But to suggest that all women should offer this kink to every single man? Jesus. Let alone that many people would find it massively offputting and ridiculous that their date has deliberately reduced their mobility to appear more attractive. Can’t we all just agree to do things we are into (and negotiate with loving partners, the sorts of things they like)? Can’t we all just do that from now on?