Regalos y roles de género

Un mostrador para envolver regalos y toda una sociedad desfilando sobre él. Más que ilusiones, empaquetábamos imposiciones sociales: cocinitas, superhéroes, caros perfumes, calcetines y comida de perro (que si se hace el paripé, se hace bien).

“Para la nena ponle en el color rosita, que es más mono”, “Ay, esto es un chico, ponle el gris este que es más serio”, “A mi mujer ponle el de las estrellas, que hace más elegante”. Apariencia, roles de género y mucho por cumplir. Cuánto daño nos hace la Navidad.

Mamás cargadas con carros, niños e interminables listas de la compra. Maridos con las manos llenas de mugre de la obra o el taller pero que tan solo eran capaces de sostener un mísero perfume de apenas 100 mililitros. Eso sí, con el envoltorio más grande y brillante de toda la tienda.

Ellos iban desfilando uno a uno. Ellos. Los rezagados de última hora. Los que no se habían molestado en intuir que aroma definiría mejor a esa mujer con la que han pasado media vida. Los que con temor han pensado “que, si no, esta noche no mojo”. Los que te piden el envoltorio más bonito y el lazo más hermoso para un un día tan especial, pero que se desentienden de la destinataria los otros 354.

Ellos también se acercaban acompañando a sus parejas. Ellos. Los que no son capaces de decirte qué papel quieren para la Barbie de su niña. Los que tienen que llamar a su mujer porque no son capaces de decidir si los Playmobil los envolvemos juntos o separados. Los que no han elegido ni un solo presente para ningún miembro de la familia porque no confían en acertar.

Ellas se abalanzaban sobre el mostrador apilando los chorrocientos regalos que habían cargado en el carro. Ellas. Las que se habían gastado los ahorros de todo el año, pero también las que con poco conseguían tener contenta a toda la familia. Las que piensan en todos, hasta las que caen en la cuenta de que la tía Manoli viene a cenar este año y que sería muy feo no tener un detalle con ella. Las que con dos manos, dos ojos, una boca y sin poderes de teletransportación, conseguían distraer a los gemelos para que no vieran los regalos en la hora y media que se pasaban recorriendo pasillos y pasillos. Las que pensaban que el papel de Papá Noel ya no se podía poner a los regalos de Reyes, porque ya no tenía sentido.

Ellas también acudían acompañadas de sus parejas. Ellas. Las que dejaban elegir al maridito qué papel le ponían al regalo de la niña, las mismas que tras la elección se arrepentían y escogían el más adecuado. Las que tampoco confían en lo que al hermanito le  ha gustado para la hermanita, porque ellas prefieren (o acostumbran) cargar con todo el peso de las decisiones familiares.

No podemos obviar los pocos papás que se encargaban de la compra de Navidad, ni las esposas que tan sólo compraban el perfume a su pareja. Pero la realidad más extendida en la sociedad es esta.

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Sex workers rights: a matter of law

Theresa has been trying to make a living as a prostitute for a long time and she finally could work safely in her own flat in Glasgow. But one of her colleagues couldn’t afford a whole rent, so she asked her if they could work together. Theresa accepted and they tried to work as covertly as they could, but they knew that at any moment they were going to get in trouble.

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“The problem came when one of my friend’s clients started to behave violently. I told him that I was going to call someone if he didn’t leave the flat. Then he threatened us calling the police, because we were two girls working together. We knew that it was illegal and that he was going to win. Fortunately I could manage to kick him out and anyone had to call the police”, she relates.

When more than one woman are working together with the purpose of selling sex the law considers that as a brothel and, thus, a crime. Sex workers organisations, such as the English Collective of Prostitutes criticises that because it makes no distinction between small groups of women who work cooperatively and those who are being coerced to work in an establishment which is run by a boss.

That’s one of the main reasons why the Home Affairs Selected Committee (HASC) presented a few months ago a report to change the legislation about sex workers in England and Wales. Those matters are supposed to be legislated separately in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the present situation of sex workers and the basis of the legislation is the same for the whole state, where between 60.000 and 80.000 sex workers live.

Currently, in the United Kingdom selling and purchasing sexual services is legal between consenting adults, but there are lots of activities surrounding this practice that attempt on the security of sex workers.

The legislation could be changed in two different ways. On the one hand, the HASC considered the possibility of implementing the Swedish system, based on the sex buyers law, which considers that “prostitution is morally wrong and should therefore be illegal” and punishes the clients. Therefore, and after a few evaluations, the HASC concluded that this wouldn’t be the most effective legislation “in reducing demand or in improving the lives of sex workers either in terms of the living conditions for those who continue to work in prostitution or the effectiveness of services to help them find new ways to earn a living”.

On the other hand, the Committee studied two other possibilities: legalising sex work, as it has been done in the Netherlands, and decriminalisation, following the New Zealand’s system. The last model was the preferred by the Government, as it was the one which resulted in more benefits. In the end, any approach appears to offer a complete solution and the inquiry is still awaiting government response since the 15th of July.

But why legalising sex work is not a good option? Anastacia Ryan, one of the founders of Umbrella Lane, a charity organisation created to give support to sex workers in Scotland, explains it. “Legalisation means the introduction of laws and policies specific to sex work to formally regulate it. This has had the effect in some contexts of creating additional tiers of criminalisation and penalisation of sex workers, subjecting them to compulsory health checks, forced testing, mandatory registration, disproportionate taxation and renting of homes, etc”.

She also agrees with the idea of decriminalisation as the best choice: “If sex work is decriminalised then sex workers can prioritise their safety and wellbeing rather than focus their energies on avoiding arrest and prosecution. The police can also begin prioritising protecting sex workers from violence and addressing the crimes committed against them rather than arresting and charging the sex workers themselves”.

Apart from being considered as the oldest profession in the world, prostitution is also one of the most dangerous. Just in the UK, 152 sex workers had been murdered since 1990. However, sometimes it gets a point in life where you don’t have the choice. People who do sex work often also belong to marginal groups, such as LGBTQ, migrant workers, lone parents or people with health issues that mean they struggle to take on more mainstream jobs.

The HASC report assumes that “many people sell sex simply because they are unable to access other means of earning an income, and that many sold sex intermittently, to accumulate savings or cope with one-off or occasional financial needs”.

Luca Stevenson, ex sex worker, member of the Sex Worker Open University in Glasgow and coordinator of International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, thinks that a good solution could be “providing a basic income for everyone”. In that way, “no one would be forced to work on any precarious and risky job to survive”, he says.

Luca also points that “Most sex workers work in fear of criminalisation and public ‘outing’ of their work. This fear deters them from accessing services for health, social care and importantly deters them from reporting violence and exploitation to police or other authorities, while in a decriminalised system sex workers will feel confident and secure in reporting violent incidents to the police without fearing repercussions for themselves”.

In addition to those difficulties, sex workers have to face the reality of working on the street. At that moment, “The Street Offences Act 1959 criminalises loitering or soliciting for purposes of prostitution”. This is why most of people who practices prostitution tend to work on the suburbs and marginal areas, to avoid being seen. This becomes a problem when any kind of violence is committed against them, as it’s harder to reach some help from those places.

“Once I was in an international conference about sex workers rights and we were trying to find a solution to that problem. One of the participants said that she didn’t want their kids to see people offering sex around their neighbourhood because it might be dangerous. She wanted to help those girls but she preferred to hide this problem, without taking into account that maybe if we all tried to share it, it would become smaller”, says Luca.

Here is the thing: sex workers are being seen and treated as passive victims with no real agency, while they are silenced in debates on sex work legislation and policies. Those who are working as sex workers must be meaningfully engaged in these debates, Like Luca. Otherwise, the law would change but stigma won’t disappear without the empowerment of the community.

1 persona, ∞ prejuicios

Una misma persona e infinitos prejuicios, todos los que tu género se encarga de crear por ti misma, sin tú a penas saberlo.

En medio de la noche oímos sonar el timbre de abajo. Un hombre sube y toca la puerta de mi compañera de piso. Empiezan a hablar con tono acalorado. Parece que es un policía. Él se va pero a los pocos minutos vuelve acompañado de otra chica que llora. Nos empezamos a preocupar.

Se hace el silencio.

De golpe alguien abre la puerta de mi habitación y lo único que podemos ver es la silueta de un supuesto chico. Es alto, lleva la cabeza rapada y una camisa de cuadros. Pero parece que no ha encontrado lo que buscaba y desaparece cerrando la puerta a su paso.

Hablo por el chat que tenemos los del piso preguntando qué está pasando ahí fuera y que alguien acaba de entrar en mi cuarto. Mi compañera de piso me confirma que la policía ha estado en casa y que debía ser uno de ellos.

Y yo empiezo a darle vueltas a la cabeza.

¿Era un policía? No tenía pinta. ¿Desde cuándo visten así los policías? Además, parecía demasiado joven y no llevaba ningún tipo de indumentaria. Y si lo era, esos no son los modales que un policía debe tener. No me parece de fiar.

¿Y si era un amigo de la chica que lloraba, la amiga de mi compañera? Puede que solo andara buscando su habitación. Si es así puedo estar un poco más tranquila, su única función es proteger a la pobre chica.

Pero, un momento. También puede que sea el culpable de los llantos de la chica. ¿Y si la ha seguido hasta aquí? Puede que quisiera robarla o abusar de ella. Qué mal rollo.

Entre tanta duda consigo dormirme. Total, he cerrado con pestillo mi puerta, ahora ya nadie podrá entrar.

A la mañana siguiente me encuentro con mi compañera de piso en la cocina y me cuenta lo ocurrido. El chico rapado era ni más ni menos que su amiga, la que lloraba. La pobre amiga indefensa era la misma persona que el chico que me hizo pasar un miedo terrible. La misma que acaba de entrar en la cocina despejando todas mis dudas. Como son las cosas, eh.

Lena Dunham, not just another “Girl”

What most of the followers of Lena Dunham want to know at that time is how the last season of Girls is going. The sixth season is going to be the last one, so no one wants to be disappointed with the future of Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa. But Dunham, a writer mostly known by her career on cinema and tv, has been busy for some other reasons lately. She has been participating on the US elections campaign as a Clinton supporter.

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Dunham joined last week the team of directors who are collaborating on a documentary about this year’s US presidential election, which will be released on early 2017. Some of their missions for this project are live-streaming events during the electoral campaign and also following and recording a diverse group of Americans from across the country until the winner is revealed.

The director has been using her fame and role as a public person to fight for the image of women. So it’s not surprising that she has been campaigning for Hillary Clinton during last months. The ones who follow her on social media could have noticed that she has been streaming different meetings and political events.

But this not the first time that Dunham gets involved on electoral campaigns. On 2012 she was criticized by appearing in a video advertisement promoting President Barack Obama’s re-election. Some media considered that she was trying to get the youth vote “by comparing voting for the first time to having sex for the first time”. But the actress defended the ad by Twitter saying “the message is serious: vote for women’s rights”.

The same reasons moved her to “Chose Hillary Clinton”. She explained why she was with Hilary in an article published b y the magazine T ime last April, where she confessed that she thought that having a woman as a President “was something impossible”. Among the facts that made her support Clinton she pointed “her commitment to women’s reproductive health and rights”, as the abortion, her plans against “systemic racism” and her aim to carry out “gun control”.

In relation to the last topic, Dunham said that “gun control is a feminist issue”, taking into account that “guns are responsible for more intimate partner killings than all other weapons combined”. That’s why “Hillary has a plan to keep guns out of the hand of domestic abusers”.

If we go through the reasons that Dunham gives, we will know a little bit more about Clinton’s policy, but also about the actress’ way of thinking, values and principles.

Lena Dunham, born in 1986, grew up in Manhattan, in the Soho, where she meet some her future colleagues in Girls. The series was created and directed by her, who also plays the role of the main character. The show and the characters has been nominated by different awards several times since 2012, age of the original release, winning The International Prize of the British Academy Television Awards, among others.

One of the keys of the success is that, in spite of the name, Girls, the show is not a typical story about young women. The plot may coincide with a well known tv program: four girls in Manhattan who try to deal with love, work and social life. Yes, it sounds like Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex and the city, but it has nothing to do with that. Dunham has been inspired by real events in her life to tell things about us, women, which hasn’t been told before.

Before creating the show that put her on the map, she worked on several projects. She started uploading short films to Youtube as a student at Oberlin College. Since the very beggining she worked on controversial subjects and sex was very present, like in Tight Shots, a ten-episode web series for Nerve.com. The definitive step to the fame before Girls was Tiny Furniture, a semiautobiographical film that she released on 2010.

Although being just 30 years old, she has a lot to tell, as she demonstrates on Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”, her first book. It’s a memoir where she reveals what she has been writing on her diaries since she was a child, like the day that she suffered sexual abused or her obsessive compulsive disorder. Those episodes which marked her life now are part of her and her personality, reflected on every single word she writes.

Bridget Boom (again)

The clichés about single women are on the top of the charts again. Bridget Jones’s Baby arrived with the same power as the previous films did. Again a story about a lady’s life which just revolves around men but with a new component: a baby! Yes, people were almost going to forget that this is the main goal in a woman’s life. But weren’t we supposed to be more critical with the figure of women in films? Oh, excuse me, it’s Bridget Jones, she knows how to make money. And newspapers know it. It’s hilarious that Renée Zellweger has been having a bigger prominence in the media than the refugees for a few weeks. The film has already made just in the UK $11m and is planning and other sequel. But don’t even try the Bechdel test, because the score won’t be be at the height of its budget.

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