or what about this thing we call machism.

        by Angela Maddalena

I would like to open this article with a consideration regarding the International Women’s Day and say that, if there is one, is because we sadly need one. To remind, especially to ourselves, as women, that centuries of evolution were not enough to take us away from harm.  To remind us to be brave and to stand one for the other and all of us together against any and all kinds of misbehaviour. This is why I am writing this article: to stand for a brave girl that experimented, lately, hate speech in its lowest form: through social media.

There are communities and pages on Facebook, here in Bulgaria, that work pretty much like the Blablacar app: It means that you write in those pages were you would like to go and when and you may be able to find someone going in the same place and willing to share the car and the expenses with you, basically giving you a paid lift. For us foreigners, this is a very good opportunity to visit places in BG without spending too much or struggle for trains and changes. It’s easy, simple and, as everyone was telling me, secure way of moving. I don’t trust people I don’t know, is my survival instinct, empowered by years and years of my mother’s fears about people and cars and young girls in the same sentence. But this is me. Majority of EVSers I know use this possibility like they use their toothbrush, without thinking about it. That’s why my friend posted on this Facebook page her proposal for a trip. I don’t think I need to explain to you that, when you post something on a Facebook page, your picture appears as well in the high left corner of the post and everyone can see you. It’s a normal thing, no? Well, somehow attracted by my friend’s look, some neanderthal user of the page wrote to her a private message that she opened, self assured it was about sharing cars. The message was indeed about sharing, but no cars were involved: it was more about the possibility of sharing “fluids” (Pardon my french) and not even written in a catchy or funny way. Actually it was just blunt and straight to the point.

My friend reacted by reposting this inappropriate message on the same Facebook page about sharing cars, explaining that her frustration was coming from the totally inappropriate behaviour of this guy and also stating that people like this can be, given the “right” circumstance, dangerous for girls travelling alone.

The page admins acted correctly, banning this person. And here, you may think that everything ended up quite well, the bad guy “punished” and the princes saved by an admin in shining armour, but no, sorry, this is not an american story: it’s quite European indeed. Because, after the report and the banning, comments started to popup. I will go more inside this in a while, but allow me to a brief parentesis about a cultural gap I often find when it come on the topic of gender equality: in Europe, and I am sad to notice this, we seem to be machist in a strange, lassist way: nobody is actually saying that is ok to disrespect women, but there is this basic attitude in believing that “boys are boys”.

What does it mean? Let me explain it better: I never met anybody, coming from an European country, that was openly stating that women are less than men, but in the same moment, there is this tendency not to take behaviours, like this Facebook user behaviour, as a serious thing. I came to believe this is a bug in our culture, starting from Casanova, that allows boys, in the shared and silent profundity of our subconscious, to “try it”. It’s nothing bad, is it? The boy was just trying to hit on you. I want to believe that everyone, seeing a girl harassed in public, will take her side and try to help her against “the dragon”; but sadly, social media’ reactions are quite different. First of all, less “real” because their are mediated by the screen and you cannot actually see the damsel in distress, so the feeling that you must do something doesn’t come naturally to you. Second reason is that everyone feels, while using FB, the right to express his\her point of view on everything. Like everyone was, suddenly, and opinion maker in a tv show, people feel it is their right to “school” people and to show them what, in their idea, was the right reaction to things. Third reason is what I call the scrolling depersonalization: you are stressed, bored, overwhelmed by the basically pointless activity to just scroll down your feeds, absent minded and full of all bad emotions coming from your real life. You think this activity, this scrolling, is helping you to relax, but it is actually getting you more and more annoyed every second. You find a debate. Zac: as a zombie, you crowl in this, finally releasing your frustration over someone else.

Someone is just aggressive, someone tries to “play it cool”, showing that you are taking everything serious even when is not serious at all, everyone is just trying to sound cool in his\hers own ears. And is sad to notice that is sounds “cool” to take the bad guy’s defence. Like he was in the end the victim, the poor one that is not allowed to say what he wants and got banned because a chik as no sense of humor. Because, scrolling the comment section after my friend’s post, this is what I read. Even more painful, is to see that girls turn against a girl, they also trying to play cool, to show that they are “open and behind the times, that they can take a joke and they are not stinky feminists”.  It’s true, dears, you are not. But there is nothing to be proud off, because you are not cool, not smart, not behind the times at all: you are still living in a world where the boys are just boys, like it always have been in the past. Maybe, you feel flattered by those kind of attentions, maybe you feel like this is normal. It’s not. You are just too used to be treated like pieces of meat, and you don’t see it as a bad thing anymore.

You must wake up, because, going on like this, you are giving those people a point: you are actually acting so stupid, by denying this kind of behaviours are a problem, that you are giving them right: if women are like this, they ARE stupid.

And now, a little analysis about the comments’ contents, s’il vous plait: majority of boys were accusing my friend of being “mean”, because reporting what happened, she got this guy banned. They also seem to believe that the problem here is her lack of humor. Someone actually got so far to suggest this might have been a virus of the Facebook contact, to invite her for sex, not the actual user. A smaller amount of boys took the other way around, expressing range more than solidarity, and reacting like it was their sister, the arrassed one. Even the man that I love, when I showed him the page, reacted as a fury, spitting fire over the “scums that shall be castrated”. And this is, still, a cultural bug: women needs protection, because next time there will be you sister\mother\wife in this girl’s position. This is a good thing, in a way, but this word “protection”, is not something I like. We don’t need “protection”, we need support.

I grown up in Southern Italy and there, even in the aristocrazy of the highest education, boys walk girls home at night. Because is dangerous. Because, as they say, is full of crazy men and your dress is too short. They want to protect us. But somehow, deep inside, they think we are provoking bad things to happen. My brother, that loves me dearly and always shown the highest respect for me, was able to ask me to go get changed because people were commenting my appearance and he was ashamed of this.

How can it be, that you are ASHAMED by me?” I asked.

His replay hit me deep in my feelings, he said: “I don’t want people to talk of my own sister like she was a horse”.

So, shan’t you be ashamed of other men?” I asked.

But is you, dressed in this way, not them”.

Please, note that he is a sensitive, intelligent and well educated man. This shame, anyway, was so deep in his silent, deep ego, that he was not able to fight it. He still doesn’t know why I got mad on him that night. He still thinks that I was just stubborn. That same time, a common friend stepped into this family business and told him to let me do what in the hell I wanted “she’s an adult, isn’t she?”. The answer anybody else (by that moment it was a public thing: if one person steps in, it means everyone can) give to this was: “you shush, you have no sisters”.   Including the girls.

And this brings back the final topic in this article: girls reactions to my friend post.

While the majority was showing sympathy, there is still a big portion of female facebook users that follows the line of “blaming the chick” for everything. Even worst that “machist” girls, anyway, are the “sophists”. In philosophy a sophist is someone who “sees the world in shades of grays, rather than in black and white”. This basically means that they believe nothing is just quite bad (or good) as it seems, that almost everything is indeed neutral, and that you can use the dialectic to prove any point, no matter how strange it might be. In philosophy, I like sophism, because is the highest point in the art of debate that human race ever achieved. But when I speak of sophists connected to Facebook, is clear that I’m implying the other meaning of the word:

        In modern usage, sophism, sophist and sophistry are redefined and used disparagingly. A sophism is a specious argument for displaying ingenuity in reasoning or for deceiving someone.A sophist is a person who reasons with clever but fallacious and deceptive arguments.

      (from Wikipedia)

 So those sophist of our ages, far from knowing what a real philosophy’ debate is, were basically assuming that “is better to be honest and to declare one’s intentions that to lie and to crush girls’ hearts after having what they wanted”. Failing to notice that the all situation was generated by a request for a lif, and didn’t took place on tinder nor any “appointments focused platform”, and that, finally, no girl’s heart shall be in this equation. Because the point here, sophist, is not to use or to be honest, the point was to have a lift.

I would like to close this sad report about the long long way we still have to run, as human race, before finding out what it actually means, to be all pairs and equals in the eyes of our fellow Humans, by saying something that is really dear to my heart: the 8th of March is nothing like a festivity, is the constant reminder that we are not and never will be free, if we are not enough to free ourselves from our bugs and idiosyncratic thoughts first. We as women. If we first are not able to stand for ourselves, instead of trying to sound cool. Don’t try, is not for everyone. Try, if you can, to BE intelligent. Is such a difference from SOUNDING smart.


The “Angie’s Blog” is a rubric led by Angela Maddalena (Italy)

and is part of the project “Freedom of (Hate) Speech“.
It is funded under European program “Erasmus+”,
KA 1: European Voluntary Service and Training Course for Youth Workers.

National Agenda for Bulgaria: Human Resource Development Center