Tag Archives: discrimination

Podge and his book from the sky – A fable

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Once upon a time there was a badger. We’ll call him Podge, because that’s what his friends called him. Podge was an intrepid and adamant little badger and he liked to roam the neighborhood at length, looking for fellow creatures to pester – or to snack on.

On one of his nocturnal foraging trips, Podge went a little further than usual and pretty soon came across an animal he had never seen before. An animal so different from himself.

‘What a strange animal… !’ Podge thought and drew closer. ‘Too large to eat and very funny-looking.’

In fact, this animal was so bizarre that, in the dark, Podge couldn’t really tell which end was the head.

‘Hi,’ he said. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

At first there was no answer, so he tried again.

‘Hi,’ he repeated. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

The strange animal stirred.

‘Why are you talking to my tail?’

‘Oh, sorry,’ Podge said and came trotting around to the other end.

And indeed, upon closer inspection, he was now able to make out a long, thin snout and a pair of ears.

‘I have never seen an animal like you. What are you, exactly?’ Podge asked.

‘What do you mean? I am me. I am who I am. Do you want to be friends?’

‘I guess, but… what are you?’ he insisted.

‘I don’t understand. Why do I have to be something in particular?’

‘Well, we’re all something. We all have to be something.’

‘Why?’

‘Just to know what we are. To know where we belong.’

‘ Well, I may not know what I am, but I still know who I am. I’m me. Isn’t that enough?’

‘But… but all the creatures in the world need to know what they are!’ Podge spluttered.

‘Why?’

‘I’m not exactly sure, but I am very pleased to know what I am and what everything around me is. I know what is food, friend, or foe. It’s easier to play with things when you know what they are.’

‘Hm,’ the other creature said incredulously and walked on, snout to the ground.

‘Aren’t you curious what I am?’

‘You’re someone who calls his friends thing names.’

But Podge didn’t hear.

‘I’m a badger,’ he pronounced proudly and confidently.

‘Says who?’

‘Everyone I know.’

‘Badger,’ muttered the creature. ‘That’s just a sound. It means nothing to me. But if you’re fond of this sound, so be it, you will be the Badger.’

‘And you? What are you?’

‘I already told you. I’m me. Why are you so obsessed with categories?’

Podge went home and found it extremely hard to fall asleep. It bothered him. He did not know where to place this creature he had met. And what should he call it? The following night he went back determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. He packed his sacred book and a flashlight. For hours on end he looked at the creature, looked at himself, then leafed back and forth through his book. It was morning already. The sun was up. He was getting tired. Finally, he exclaimed:

‘I know! I know what you are! You’re an aardvark!’ He was so relieved.

‘You think so?’

‘I know so!’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because my book says so, look!’ he said and pointed to a picture on a page that said “Aardvarks”.

‘And how does the book know I’m an aardvark? Maybe they just had to come up with a name and didn’t know any better.’

‘Oh, no, no, no. Not a chance. This book knows everything there is to know. It’s a magical book. And it’s always right.’

‘Really? How do you know that?’ the aardvark asked again.

‘Well, because this book came to us directly from the sky!’

‘No kidding…’

‘Yes, yes. I found it myself one morning on the forest floor. There was nobody else around, and it’s too heavy for our birds to carry. So, it must have fallen from the sky!’

‘Hm,’ the creature muttered again and tried to sniff out some ants.

‘You eat ants! Perfect, that’s perfect. You’re a good aardvark!’

‘How do you know I’m a good aardvark?’

‘Because that’s just what my book says you’re supposed to eat!’

‘I also eat cucumber,’ the aardvark replied.

‘Oh no, you really shouldn’t!’ Podge retorted with a worried look on his face.

‘Why not?’

‘Because my book says nothing about cucumbers. That means you’re probably not allowed to eat them. Oh boy, why do you have to eat cucumbers? What is wrong with you? It’s so unnatural.. You should eat termites!’

‘Hm,’ the aardvark said. ‘I had no idea there was something wrong with me until just now. But I do eat termites rather frequently,’ he apologized.

‘Oh, good!’

‘I’m curious,’ the aardvark inquired. ‘Do you always do what the book says?’

‘Oh yes, always!’

‘And what does your book say about badgers?’

‘A badger is a short-legged nocturnal omnivore,’ Podge read solemnly.

‘Nocturnal, huh? Then how come you are up and about after daybreak?’ the aardvark wanted to know.

Podge blushed, felt guilty and fell silent. He picked up his things and scurried home to sleep on it.

‘What a strange animal… !’ the aardvark thought. ‘He walks around at night with only one book and a tiny flashlight, yet claims to know what everything is…’

Linguistic Research Project – Humble Request

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To my dear readers:

Hi guys, I hope everyone is doing well! I was wondering if any of you might like to help me with my new linguistic pet project. I was wondering how far the equality of the sexes has come and what it feels like to be a woman in our day-to-day interactions in the 21st century. What are women allowed to do? What are they supposed to want? What is still perceived as taboo? How do people speak about women where you live?

I am therefore collecting instances of oppressive language directed at women and used to keep them “in their place”. For now I am only interested in SPOKEN language, so expressions YOU YOURSELVES HAVE HEARD OR OVERHEARD DURING YOUR LIFETIME. Things like (but not limited to): “What kind of profession is that for a woman?”, “That’s not a girl colour/activity”, “The wife shouldn’t be smarter than her husband”, “All women want children”, “You women are so… emotional/hormonal/impossible”, “Women can’t be top managers because they lack…”, “Women can’t join the clergy because their looks will distract the congregation from God” (as if there are no distractingly handsome clergymen 🙂) or even disturbing stuff such as “She deserved what happened to her because she was too…. opinionated/provocative etc.”

If you have been confronted with this kind of prejudice or you’ve heard it in the workplace, on the street, at a friend’s house, from relatives, on TV/radio or whatever, and you’d like to contribute (anonymously), please submit your examples via the Google Form that can be found at the following link:

https://forms.gle/s51dQeqeMyBSeAk97

Multiple submissions possible.

The data I need is: the expression used; when it was said (what year, approximately); the country in which it was said; whether it was said by a man or a woman and what role/job/relationship that person was to you (boss, friend, colleague, family member, teacher, stranger in the street etc.), and the kind of tone that was used. If you also want to include how that particular utterance made you feel, please do. But please only contribute stuff that you have heard yourselves (i.e. stuff said in your presence). 🙂

I am also interested in sexist jokes that are still current and popular in your region. Things like: “If your wife can come out of the kitchen to nag you, you’ve made her leash too long.”

Eventually, if this actually turns into something interesting, I might add a section on supportive language (instances where women were encouraged to pursue their goals/ambitions/ideals and reach for the stars). It would be interesting to see how these differ in paraverbal terms (intonation, pitch etc.) and in non-verbal behavior (body language, eye contact etc.) from the dismissive comments above.

Many thanks for participating, I really appreciate it!

Thought of the day

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“The willingness to change one’s identity, or at least add a second identity – perhaps one of the most painful psychological experiences humans can encounter but also one of the most liberating – is shaped first and foremost by the willingness of the host culture to accept the immigrant into the community. As long as the host culture regards immigrants as permanent aliens and denies citizenship, then migrants will cling to their existing identities.”  (Weiner, Human Motivation, 1996, p. 53)

In his study guide on Human Geography, G.A. Jones (2011) also notes that “migrants must be willing to accept the norms and customs of the host society” and that “the extent to which exile is perceived as a temporary solution will affect the strategies adopted by the displaced”.

What do you think?

Discrimination, my love

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We’re in the process of moving to the Bavarian capital, and the rent is crushingly high, so I started to look for a second job.

I was pretty happy when I actually got a few replies, but then it all ended the way it often does: the person on the other end looks at my name on the CV, clears her throat and asks the one question that equals total demolition, “ahm, and… what’s your nationality?” That just makes my day every time. Not to mention people reaching protectively for their pockets when I give the answer. Because there is no way around that answer, no matter how nicely I attempt to package it.

What can I say? Sure, I have German citizenship, but they can hear my accent. And my name has too many vowels, apparently. It’s so lovely to be rejected for a job for which you were overqualified to begin with, simply because you were born in a country that everybody wants to avoid like the plague.

It caresses my soul to be told they’ve already found someone and then to find the ad still in the window two weeks later… I applied for an evening job as an English tutor, and the lady on the phone told me “one can hear you’re not German”.

Well, wtf? You don’t need me to teach German, do you?! You need me to teach English – and English has been my job for the past 7 years. I started learning English in elementary school, later on studied with American visiting lecturers, then lived in the US myself for a while. But do you think that makes any difference? Not a word in English was exchanged between us. She decided I wasn’t native enough. Heck, even my son’s kindergarten would only employ purebred Americans or Britons ’cause nobody else can teach “this is a frog / this is a pen” to 5-year-olds.

I don’t mind being rejected after a thorough interview, if I am not up to the task. But at least give me a chance to introduce myself and show what I am capable of. Why should my Romanian origins immediately wipe 30 points off my IQ??? See, this is the reason I became self-employed. It irks me so bad that people (in my case, Germans), even those in multicultural settings, will judge a person strictly on the basis of nationalistic stereotypes. This day in age. People with university degrees, mind you.

(For some freaking reason, engineers are exempt from this “humane” treatment even if they don’t speak a word of German, which only irks me more.)

Honest Romanians abroad fight every day to keep their dignity. It’s an uphill battle. It’s essential for us to have a better image. So, how do we go about achieving that? Most of us are perfectly docile, law-abiding citizens in our countries of adoption. And yet, it seems we cannot please people. We cannot completely dispel their prejudice.

We totally depend on the Romanians at home for that. And as any good PR specialist will tell you, advertising without content no longer works. We have to generate credibility, we have to put our house in order for real, and the image will follow. The system has to be fixed from within and then it has to remain stable, clean, and consistent long enough to generate trust. Only when we’ve accomplished that will a better image emerge. On its own.

Hopefully, during my lifetime. I would hate to see my kids go through the same thing.