Saturday, October 29, 2016

Glenn is Dead and it feels too REAL: An Orbituary

I used to watch Lost, so I have mourned my fair share of TV characters. The whole premise of an actor exiting a show you love sucks, but never, I repeat, never, has it ever felt this bad: Glenn is dead. His skull is no more. He won't even be cameoing as a zombie. Glenn is gone! Again. After I had to go through this last year, I now actually saw his brain hanging from a baseball bat, and so all hope is gone. Last year when Glenn "died", there was hope, now the image of his eyeball popping out of his skull is the only thing I can see in my inner eye since Sunday. One may think that the reality that "The Walking Dead" is simply a TV show, and Glenn is not really dead, is a relief. Sadly, it hasn't been a relief for me.

Glenn was my favorite character next to Rick from Day 1. Duh, he was awesome, and there's almost no characters left from that day, but when Glenn was in danger it was always the worst. Rick can't and won't die (thank GOD), so Glenn running errands made me particularly nervous. I will never forget Noah's death which, if we're honest, should have been Glenn's day, never mind Glenn's heroic survival since arriving in Alexandria, being the subject to an assassination attempt, then watching said assassin kill himself on a dumpster, thus dooming Glenn to die as well. How was Glenn even alive on that fateful day at the pit? Remembering Glenn walk among walkers in his first ever appearance I thought he's be dead before the end of the day. Fortunately he wasn't which made for six seasons of an adorable hero.

Speaking of hero, I'd like to propose an experiment: close your eyes, think of nothing, and tell me in five seconds who, other than Glenn is your favorite Asian-American hero? I'm waiting. 5...4...3...2...1! Nothing? Hiro Nakamura from "Heroes" kinda doesn't count but yeah, good start. An Asian badass being a hero doesn't happen too often. In fact, let's not forget how Asian people in Western entertainment are rarely praised as beautiful. Where was America's Next Top Model of Asian descent? Steven Yeun aka Glenn in real life has recalled feeling ugly as a child because of his ancestry which I find ridiculous given how good-looking he is. "I never had a Glenn on TV", he has said about growing up trying to position himself in American society as an Asian American. Now, once more, there's no Glenn on TV who shows that Asian Americans, too, can be heroes.

That just sucks, doesn't it? The Walking Dead is a pretty diverse show, and features quite a few interracial couples. There was only one perfect one, though. Rick and Michonne? Hell no. Abraham and Rosita? Get out! The crown goes to Glenn and Maggie, a cute little love story in a show about the zombie apocalypse. His last words, after losing his brain to a baseball bat, was directed to his wife when he said he would "find" her. Last time they had been separated, and reunited, Maggie burned his photograph because she was convinced she'd never need it. I remember screaming at her then, now I'm just furious. Maggie, if she survives, now has to give birth to her adorable biracial child and watch it grow up knowing that without baby Glenn his dad might still be alive. But let's not start going down these roads. He's dead. Let's just cry.

Glenn dying was indeed my worst case scenario, and when Abraham was chosen I was, much like everyone else, so so relieved. My first thought was "I can't believe both Glenn and Daryl got out of this one". What a fool I was. Ten minutes later Glenn's also dead and Daryl's gone. Why exactly did Abraham have to die then? Geez, these overambitious writers, I want to sit them down for a talk. Abraham dying could have been an epic episode by himself, especially with that love triangle. What a waste of a major character's death. The only thing consoling me was that Steven Yeun is not dead and my last remaining hope is that he will just become a massive movie star. Please, somebody give him a new show. I want that Korean hero back on TV. I promise I'll watch!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A huge, over-emotional rant on Sexism

Sexism is Dead, They Said... Relax, They Said! Excuse me while I go to the bathroom and vomit. Today, Facebook reminded me, is International Day of the Girl Child, and everybody loves it, I'm sure. But this week, with whatever is going on, I have officially become weary of hearing people denounce sexism, its existence, its profoundness and its complete ongoing significance in every day life. Donald Trump, at least in his head, has a view of women that does not equal the view he has of a man, and we didn't find out about that this week. Him feeling entitled to grab "p***" because he's famous is a new low point in his career I thought was impossible to reach, yet that's not what I'm here to talk about today. Far worse than his disgusting comments, and the reflection it has on his personality, is that so many people, including many women, are excusing it or, even worse, probably agree. Whoever feels like not being called out on sexism today might as well stop reading now.

For me to claim I know what sexism looks like is a nobrainer. Two years in Egypt and one literally knows what being "grabbed by the p***" by an absolute stranger who isn't even a celebrity show host is like. I have thick skin (and a pretty tough fist) so I am fortunate I didn't take away any tremendous emotional scars from having to live like that. Feeling liberated to return to a society where I felt a bigger effort is made to treat women with the same amount of respect men receive I had to realize that political efforts for equality have not yet translated into social equality. Political efforts are equal pay, universal suffrage and a woman's quota; in society, however, I realize I'm a woman almost every day. People regard me as weak, limit me to my appearance and dismiss female qualities as inferior. And this happens every single day, whether people realize it or not.

Donald Trump's remarks are not shocking to me, and anyone who hasn't blatantly excused all of his mishaps in the last year as an effort to stop political correctness knows Donald Trump looks at women, minorities and many, many other people as not equal to his male, white persona. "Actions speak louder than words", they say, and I have to completely disagree. One does not only become a misogynist by raping or assaulting a woman; speaking or thinking about them as an inferior or objectified gender suffices. And that is exactly what that leaked tape shows us. And his interrupting in debates. And his comments on "fat" people Rosie O'Donell and Alicia Machado. Speaking of the latter, people seem to forgive him these comments because these women actually are or became "fat". Is this the world we live in, where women are subject to privileged white men calling them out on their looks without being labeled as crude themselves? Apparently we are.

My opinion on calling out Trump for this behavior appears to me to earn more criticism as the criticism he's getting, at least in my circles. For me to say this, I have many friends telling me to stop being so sensitive, and my consequent freak out over being told that in this context earns me my favorite accusation: "oh what a drama queen!" Awesome! Nothing I love more than people calling me a drama queen for not ignoring bullshit. I get called this by friends, partners and random tweeters for disagreeing so I'm sorry if I can't take it seriously. In this particular example they aren't even wrong; I fight a lot, I debate, I get really angry when challenged and my tolerance for people spreading hate, misogyny or other equally infuriating topics is tiny, yet I do not have to accept people calling me anything behind my back, even if it's true. Not as a woman, not as  human being. If that earns one the "crazy" badge I get why so many people seem to have it. All it is is a ridiculous attempt to bad mouth an emotional reaction by a woman, and I don't appreciate it.

So as soon as a woman disagrees, develops an uncomfortable opinion or simply stops buying bullshit they are labeled "crazy". Oh man, I have witnessed this so much. A guy I once hooked up with, who then ignored me for seven hours the next time I saw him before asking me if I could give him a ride home didn't just call me crazy when I laughed at him and told him he can go suck it, he also proceeded to tell all of his friends what a ridiculous bitch I was for telling him to off without "any reason". I have also been called crazy because I went quiet after I found out that some guy I was seeing had slept with another girl while talking to me. I also didn't find it too decent that a guy was texting me while on holiday with another girl. While these things aren't gender-related, my consequent reactions were made the actions of a "drama queen"; they have earned me criticism while I somehow feel they should have rather earned me an apology. But a strong reaction from a woman, for whatever reason, is better put off as some kind of insane female behavior.

I have had many really good guy friends and I do know their "locker room talk". Contrary to popular belief, I am in fact not very sensitive. My best friend from college who I used to live with would come home from a night out and tell me in detail in which horrendous way he got some sorority chicks to sleep with him. I don't even blame him because these girls were okay with their objectification and could have called him out on it any day, but they didn't. The fact he would tell me though, speak about them like they were just some sort of tool to get pleasure out of, is fundamentally wrong. We were friends, I knew he didn't mean disrespect, and I have equally seen him treat women wonderfully, including me. But this is the reality: this locker room talk is where the issue is expressed, where women are described as something that cannot be regarded as respectful. To assume that these thoughts would find expression in actions is a foregone conclusion. and even if they don't, viewing women like that in one's mind to me is already a proof of a problem.

Only today I was told that men in Egypt weren't nice to me because I was actually nice but because I was blonde and foreign and men there just wanted to sleep with me. Beautiful, they got that one right. Knowing that myself, please tell me why I should have been nice? Yet the vast majority of girls there were pretty happy to accept this kind of interest, and I'm the last one who judges that. Turns out that was the kind of interest that was up for grabs, and other parts of the world aren't different. Funnily enough, more and more of these girls decided to ignore their friends' warnings that certain guys were not in fact genuinely interested, but when they actually got burned being taken advantage of by the guy they liked it wasn't the guys' fault but the other girls who he clearly liked more from day one. I don't know where this lack of self-respect comes from, but I sure know that locker room attitudes don't help. I dare say that said girl probably would have decided otherwise without the willingness of that guy to take advantage of her inability to make the right decision for herself.

Now we live in a world where guys have told me some girls they slept with were "stupid" or "easy", and swimmers get three months in jail for rape while others serve five year sentences for burning an illegal CD. The argument that something is not as equal as it should be is groundless. There can be no argument. Where are the equal workplaces that employ the same amount of women than men? Where is equal pay? And where is the attitude that I am more than a nice hair cut and a moving pair of boobs when I am out? Having people look at my boobs in public is the least of my problems. I have lost out to jobs I was perfect for because I was a woman. I have had to listen to people accusing me of coming to Egypt only to "fuck Egyptians". And worst of all, I have had to watch people roll their eyes when I expressed disappointment over that. Even some people who just read this have done exactly that. Three guesses who these people are...

What's most disappointing is that a large amount of women who have not realized that they are disadvantaged and excuse patriarchal behavior. Do you know how many women believe that a girl "was asking for it" if she dressed promiscuously, shouldn't flip out when a man disrespects her or wasn't really harmed by Donald Trump's comments? Any man talking, thinking or subconsciously acting without ill-intent like a woman is a property, a less respectable human being or inferior and weak is harming me, even if I don't bleed after. In a public fight, I dare you to think that the guy started it, because the girls are usually the ones seeking the drama. A hot, rich, successful chick being married to an average Joe would shock you more than a hot, rich, successful dude doing the same, that's a fact. And that's not the fault of a woman, it's the result of a society who does not believe that this attitude needs revision but the people who call for revision.

When I see what women endure and don't even realize that they are being compromised by a medieval world view, I feel sorry, that's all. Truth is that many women are unaware of their disadvantage, and they will probably not feel too bad about it as a result. Worse even are those who do not identify with feminism because they believe it does not coincide with their traditional values. Many women want to be a housewife, cook and clean for a living, and believe their place is the home. Denouncing feminism, however, has nothing to do with that. We are talking about the option of living such a life as opposed to being expected to live that life. Therefore, every single person, male or female, not identifying as a feminist, namely believing that women and men are created equal, is sexist, or at the very least an idiot or asshole. We need more people to accept than we need people to fight for feminism. But as long as conversations like the one happening on a bus in 2005 are excused as not a problem, we sure do have one... at least if "we" means women!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Happy Birthday, Germany: I Love You, but I'm not Proud of You

On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany became the Federal Republic of Germany once more, ending communist rule, a separation of its people by a giant wall and authoritarianism in the German sphere. A wall had separated families, friends and advances in politics, technology and society, and on that day that wall was no more; those people having been separated were walking on the same sides of where it had stood; the Eastern parts of German families found out how the Western parts had lived since the war. Finally, after those Cold War years, but also after a devastating war, 12 years of Nazi reign and another two decades of war followed by economic hardship as a result of it, Germany was finally looking into a bright future. And that future was indeed bright. As a result, today's holiday to celebrate reunification is much more than a reminder of this happy occasion.

I myself never experienced a troublesome Germany. I wasn't even a year old when the Wall came down, and I don't remember watching people climb up it with hammers, taking out pain accumulated during decades of repression out on this endless piece of concrete concealing freedom from the East. My first memory is hearing "Wind of Change" by The Scorpions, unaware of how tremendous its meaning would be for my life. Here in the West, people agree that the East was liberated from authoritarianism, and considering the daily life a citizen of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) it is hard to rationally argue against that notion. That day Francis Fukoyama, I like to think, had a vision he later called the "end of history". He should end up being wrong about that. Although October 3 is probably the most wonderful day in German history, we have much more to remember on this anniversary than the end of a dark time. But not everybody likes to remember.

Since I was too young to know what Germany was like before said day, it is impossible to assess how much really changed. What I can assess though, is where we are today, and put it into historic perspective, since not having been there doesn't mean I don't know. Just because I was never a Nazi who killed Jews and most people who were are dead, the history of my country has not faded. Quite the contrary: I believe in repeatedly remembering what the soil I stand on every day was the stage for not too long ago, and it breaks my heart despite not having been there. Why do we study history at all if we look at it unfavorably, not accepting the lessons it's trying to teach us? Due to my country's horrible history, I have time and time again questioned whether pride of my nation is appropriate. In nine years abroad, in which I have looked at my home country from afar, I have finally come to a conclusion.

Just as much as it's not my fault what Germans have done historically, it has nothing to do with me how well Germany is doing now. To call myself ashamed of the sins of my fathers is probably wrong, and not necessary. However, for me to just look at the present, that I in fact do play a part in, and say it makes me proud to be German is just as wrong then. I didn't make Germany the 4th largest economy in the world. I didn't win the World Cup. I didn't contribute to politics of acceptance and equality. Given we have a huge rise in nationalist sentiments on this entire planet, I struggle to see how any other country is different. Where do they take this massive entitlement from that characterizes them as better than another, just by being born in a certain place? I am a part of Germany today, doing everything I possibly can to corroborate its values of freedom, democracy and equality because I believe in them more than in anything else. None of that, however, will ever come from a place of being "proud to be German".

I love Germany more than most people. Everything I was able to do I owe to this country. It has given me education despite a rather unlikely background for achievement, I receive medical assistance for runny noses and acne and it has day after day proven to be a home for me and so many wonderful people from everywhere on the planet. If there was ever a blessing, it would be being born German. The fact, however, is that I did nothing to deserve it. I was merely born here, and therefore don't feel like I deserve its glory any more than another. To call myself a patriot, therefore, goes against my understanding of what this nation is: we are happy, blessed and thankful to be here, but we are not part of an exclusive club that only allows those who actually share our nationality. At least that's what I'd like to think.

Patriotism isn't nationalism, and I know that. Since I, historically, morally and politically, disagree with nationalism, however, I have decided to no longer call myself a patriot either. Pride is not an asset; gratitude is. In my life in four different countries I have experienced sentiments towards countries I don't want to associate with. And even in Germany we are seeing more and more where the negligence of history and the indulgence in nationalist rhetoric is leading to; it's not a to a good place. In both Egypt and the US I saw nationalism and patriotism respectively I would not like to see in Germany. At home, the term "nationalism" has had a round in history, and it's time to leave it behind. The exclusive society, building on a belief that the place of one's birth gives a person more reason to be proud of their country than another is foreign to me because we were simply not taught. I believe that was a correct decision!

Today, I am proud to be part of a society that has gotten up from a disaster of historic proportions. That means I am proud to be a human being, not proud of being German. I want to do anything I can to make others proud of me and my contribution to this wonderful, reunified country that has done a terrific job, in my eyes, in the past year of trying to put our shameful past into hope for others from afar. The most patriotic day of my life was last summer, when I spent the entire day at a refugee camp in Macedonia, later seeing a certain Eastern German physicist, more widely known as the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, welcoming refugees to our country because she believed "we can do it!" I believe we can do it. I believe this country has nothing to fear from any threat we are facing because we have overcome so many. And not because we are the best, but because we will try and we will succeed. Look where the last challenges took us. That's where I will derive my identity from, not the color of my skin, my hair color, what my passport says or what language I speak. 

Backstreet's Back Alright... and I am Old!

The Backstreet Boys are back, what a time to be alive! Turns out, when they said "as long as there'll be music we'll be coming back again", they weren't kidding. Thank God! Whatever is left of music these days, barely qualifying to be called just that, needs to be revived by whatever was going on there in the 90s. I found myself at a 90s party last weekend where I was definitely the only person who actually remembered these songs coming out, if you know what I'm saying. Now I do admit I'm hugely biased, having had an incredible 90s childhood, so every song from that decade comes with a flash of memories of me standing on the table, dancing, lip-syncing because I didn't speak a word of English, but how do younger or older generations fail to see what the 90s gave us? Let me elaborate...

Well, ehm, I don't think I have to mention the Backstreet Boys again, do I? Oh never mind, why not...? The Backstreet Boys are amazing! They deserve to be called amazing although, let's face it, they didn't do anything. Like Michael Jackson, who I would like to call the most unbelievable thing to come out of any decade, was an absolute force of nature, definitely the best performer ever and sang like there was nothing else he could do. The Backstreet Boys: not so much. They had the hair and nose Michael Jackson was missing, but Howie D and Nick Carter usually didn't amaze with their vocal range. However, just like MJ's, every song of theirs was an instant classic. This sounds ridiculous because these days "Everybody" is obviously a classic, but I remember being six years old and thinking this will be a hit, although I dare say I probably didn't know what a "hit" really was. What a flipping tune. 20 years later I still love it every single time. It just doesn't get old, only I am...

Now that I said "20 years" I actually realize I went to a party for old people. Most of these people were not around when the Backstreet Boys released... well... anything. I was watching Jimmy Fallon the other day (don't ask, I don't even know why myself either?) and he had young Grace Vanderwaal on who just won "America's Got Talent" at 11 years old. Jimmy asked her about the song "Bye Bye Bye" which, oh my God, is such a tune. But quite evidently, young Grace had no effing clue. She had never heard of that song. Being 11, she was born when Justin Timberlake had already kind of retired. And not from the boyband, but his SOLO career, only to be an "actor". There a kids out there who probably know Justin from his appearances in movies more than his music. What a shame! Now if that doesn't make anybody feel the pressure of time on their backs, I don't know what will.

The truth is that I am now old enough to claim a decade. When I was younger, I heard of 70s and 80s parties, and I knew Cyndi Lauper and Boy George from TV, but I didn't know what it actually felt like to dance to "Take on Me" when it first came out, or having a crush on Morten from a-Ha when he was actually a heartthrob. Now, I am old enough to be telling young kids what that was like, only in my own decade. 20 years ago, which is longer than most popstars have been alive, I was getting set in puberty and was rocking out to Techno before it became a hipster music genre. We didn't have phones or computers, and only yesterday I was telling the story of how I recorded Enrique Iglesias' "Hero" on the radio when it charted so I could listen to it over and over again. This doesn't just sound like an anecdote from the past but from an entirely different phase of history.

We can't help but think that our decade was the best, and yet the 90s really were an incredible time. Only later on I found out that the feeling of security and peace one felt during childhood actually had a foundation in the 90s: there was a sense of idealism in world politics after communism fell in Europe and the US had actually started to look for new foreign policy goals (for once) without antagonizing, but assisting world leaders to achieve peace. The 1990s reshaped the planet, and even today I felt like there could have been a better planet if that mentality hadn't gotten lost so dramatically in 2001. Music, however, was definitely just so, so much better back then. The only aspect of life that did not benefit from digital technology was music, hands down. I'd take the Backstreet Boys back over semi-talented DJs from France or Sweden any day. And what's wrong with dancing? Why do boybands these days stand still? Thankfully, starting March 1, the Backstreet Boys are back.