How To Behave During a Protest

The people of Russia are taking to the streets to protest the egregiously fraudulent elections to the Russian Parliament. I found a set of suggestions on how to organize a peaceful protest on one of the websites of the bloggers who will participate in the protests and decided to translate it. I think it contains some very useful tips for protesters. I adapted it somewhat, too, by getting rid of very specifically Russian realities:

  1. Always leave a space of a stretched arm between yourself and other protesters. Don’t move too close to each other. A crowd where people stand very closely to one another will not be able to maneuver itself as easily and will eventually become dangerous to the protesters.
  2. Protests are very demanding physically. If you have health issues, it is best to avoid slowing down other protesters with them. Stay at home and provide informational support through online activities from there.
  3. A crowd can easily become too engulfed in emotions. Remember that crowd enthusiasms are volatile, dangerous, and unproductive. Remain calm and in control of your emotions at all times. You will only be taken seriously by authorities if you don’t allow hysteria to overtake you. The point of the protest is not to unburden yourself psychologically. It is, rather, to demand change from the authorities.
  4. Think of those who are there with you. Take care of your fellow protesters.
  5. Think about how your behavior during the protests will look to others. Everything is recorded and televised nowadays. Remember that it will be very easy for hostile reporters to present you as unhinged and crazy if you offer them the smallest opportunity to do so.
  6. Avoid antagonizing the police officers. Doing so is always a losing strategy. Try being as friendly as you can with the representatives of the law. Remember that it is much harder to hit or pepper-spray a person with whom you’ve just been chatting about the weather or sharing a cigarette. If at all possible, talk to the police calmly. Try to attract the officers to your side.

    Today's Protests in Russia
  7. There are likely to be provocateurs at the protests. Their goal is to make protesters look like aggressive people who are set at disturbing the peaceful life of other citizens. If there are just two provocateurs with anti-Semitic slogans, they will most surely end up being filmed and will forever be associated with your protest. Make sure that your verbal disagreement with the provocateurs is as visible as possible.
  8. All of your demands should be legal and realistic. Avoid making threats aimed at specific individuals. Avoid calls to armed action.
  9. Civil freedoms take a long time to be gained and then need to be preserved by constant efforts. Don’t expect to achieve anything fast. This will be a very long journey.

And from me personally: the weather is getting colder. Remember to put on warm underpants. A long-sleeved warm shirt gets tucked into the underpants and the underpants should get tucked into warm socks.

I wish the Russian protesters the best of luck in their struggle. I hear that already over 800 people have been arrested in Moscow and St. Petersbourg for participating in the peaceful protests. As tragic as it is, this is also a good sign, a sign that the people of Russia have had enough of being lied to and treated like garbage by their authorities.

I hope that the peaceful Russian Revolution of 2011 succeeds in removing the Party of Crooks and Thieves (United Russia) from power. Russia is a great country whose people deserve better than being governed by this bunch of vile criminals.

P.S. 632305222316434 Those who know, know what I mean.

Through the Eyes of a Stranger: A Woman As a Syringe

The carefree, happy-go-lucky, gulp-it-down-and-think-of-the-consequences-later attitude to medication on this continent is nothing short of shocking. Look what I just came across at a blog written by an educated, intelligent person:

A friend of mine has to give medicine to her month-old baby. The medicine is liquid, and apparently tastes disgusting. The poor baby HATES it and tries not to swallow it, making the whole thing an ordeal. What if the mother could take the medicine instead? Then she could nurse the baby as usual and the baby would get her medication without having to deal with the yucky taste.

The thought that the mother would be exposed to a drug that she absolutely does not need with God only knows what side-effects and with potentially dangerous consequences never even crosses this blogger’s mind.

Let’s forget for the moment that this is a woman writing about another woman as if her body were a sort of a giant syringe or a drug-dispensing device whose only role is to provide needed substances to a child. Let’s just concentrate on the ease with which the author suggests that a healthy person should take drugs because it’s convenient. To somebody else.

This is how the blogger in question justifies this atrocity:

I’m sure there are quite a few cases where the mother would rather take a bit of unnecessary medication herself than have to make her poor baby miserable several times a day.

Taking even seemingly necessary medication is a huge decision that should not be taken lightly. I’d suggest that even Tylenol be avoided as much as possible unless one is really in horrible pain and has exhausted every other option to get rid of it. But taking “a bit of unnecessary medication” cannot possibly ever even cross the mind of a psychologically balanced individual.

A Cool New Yorker Cover

The New Yorker has immortalized me on its recent cover:

Except for the glasses, this is totally how I look. I love reading my Kindle on the Montreal subway. And I’m so angelic and long-suffering that I’m almost sprouting wings. So I’m taking this as a tribute to myself and to all the other angelic Kindle-lovers with wild hair.

Thank you, Dame Eleanor Hull for letting me know.

Passive Voice Feminism

I know that everybody must be sick and tired of my rantings about the excessive use of the passive voice in feminist writing. This is an important topic, though. Just like #OWS protesters, many feminist writers suffer from addressing vague complaints to unidentified sources of aggravation and this undermines any hope for productive activism. Take the following excerpt, for example:

I wear makeup. Not much — unobservant people would call me a non-makeup wearer — but enough to cover the “imperfections” and make my lips and cheeks a bit more rosier than they were when I woke up? Why do I do this? Generally I’m treated better when I look “prettier” in society’s eyes. Conversely, I have the choice of going barefaced, which I have on occasion. But that choice comes with the baggage of being labeled “unfeminine,” “unkempt” or “unprofessional.”

This post leaves the most interesting part of the story concealed from view. Who are the people that treat this blogger better when her cheeks are rosier and label her as “unkempt” when they are less rosy? These must be people with a lot of free time on their hands to enable them to notice the degree of rosiness of everybody’s cheeks. So I’m genuinely curious who they are.

Another question that is even more important is how the feminist in question reacts to these observations. Let’s imagine she is at work and her boss comes up to her to say, “Look, your lips aren’t all that rosy today which makes you unfeminine, so that promotion we discussed? Forget about it!” I’m not saying this can’t happen. Idiots abound, so everything is possible. It would be great to hear what the insulted feminist does in response. Takes the jerk up on a sexual harassment charge, I hope. Now, this is a story I would like to read about instead of these vague complaints about some unspecified evildoers who treat one badly and label one all kinds of things.

I’d love to participate in this struggle myself. However, I haven’t encountered a single person in the course of my long and eventful life who would be willing to discuss the lack of rosiness of my body parts. I wouldn’t be averse to meeting such an individual, to be honest, because it would be so much fun to unload on them and then describe the process here on the blog.

Sometimes, I wear a lot of makeup. Sometimes, I wear none. And for the life of me, I can’t say that anybody even notices. My colleagues are very busy people who have more important things to do than notice whether I have lipstick on. My boss notices whether I have published anything recently but I can’t imagine him giving a rat’s ass about whether I use mascara. I’m certain that he’d prefer to see me with zero makeup but a stack of publications to seeing me with the best makeup in the world and no publications. My students obviously could care less about my makeup. My friends are supposed to love me no matter how I look and calling each other “unkempt” or “unprofessional” is simply not something that we do to each other.

Mind you, I’m not saying that women don’t get treated worse if they avoid makeup. I don’t know if they do or they don’t because every single article or blog post I have ever seen on the subject suffers from the same vagueness as the one quoted above. I suggest we start putting nouns into our sentences. That’s the only way to create actual change. Instead of saying, “I’m being treated badly and labeled XYZ”, let’s say “Today, Mr. Such-and-such came up to me at work and made an unacceptable comment about my appearance. I told him that he is a vile jerk and I will be reporting him to the Dean’s office. This is a procedure I followed and I hope it will be useful to other women who find themselves in the same situation.”

Wouldn’t you agree that the second course of action is a lot more likely to produce results?