Herstory 9 – Friends of the earth

killing with an axe is related to finnish (male) culture. some years ago a person was killed with an axe in the helsinki metro. it’s a manly thing to do. the silent finnish hero gets her vengeance with an axe.

and, the translations are not word by word, cause i’m not that fluent in finnish.

Subject: Nuuksio retki: palaute (seksismistä)
[Nuuksio trip: feedback (on sexism)]

Nuuksio was beautiful. But unfortunately we still live in a society
where overt (open) sexist behavior is socially acceptable.

Apart from coming with slippery sexual comments that he
himself set up, (H) also managed to retraumatize me,
a woman who have been exposed to rapes and other
male use and abuse.

Examples: He asks one woman how to say “first aid” in Russian
and after she says it, he says “aha, pikasuihinotto” [quick blow job] and
then he continues asking me, a Swedish woman, how you say “blow job”
in Swedish.

He was constantly using foul language and coarse
sexually harassing “humor”.

At one time the situation also turned dangerous and frightening
when he was supposed to go and meet a woman who arrived
later in the night. She had biked to a path that was about 500 metres
away from the cottage.

I felt like going for a night walk, experiencing the forest
in the dark. So I trusted him to lead the way.
I am not an outdoor person. I have no experience of
moving about and finding my way in the woods.
We didn’t have any light. Even if there were stars out, it was very dark.

I don’t know if the fact that he had been drinking has
anything to do with him getting lost after 200 metres.
He was constantly saying that it’s easy to walk around,
cause the “path is always darker or lighter than the surroundings,
or then you just ‘feel’ the path”.

He dropped his shoe, and spent five minutes looking for it
with a lighter. I suggested several times that we should turn back.
Or call someone. But he just continued walking.

He was saying over and over again that he was lost.
And that we had to find a certain route, that we should keep looking for it.
I had no choice but to follow him.
I trusted that he knew the area, since he had visited the cottage
before. So I couldn’t make out how bad the situation was.

We were walking in terrain that was clearly not “feeling like a path”.
At one point he started singing.
I was shocked by the lyrics.
I found the song on the internet. Apparently they sing
it at parties at the technical school.

sävel: Budapestin yössä

Illalla, kun mielipuoli kirveen saa, In the night when the madman gets an axe,
hän johdattaa mut aitan taa, she leads me behind the shed
siellä missä aivokoppa aukeaa where the skull bursts
ja verikin on punaisin. and the blood is red.
Nauraen lyö hullu niskan taa, Laughing the crazy man strikes the neck,
tunnen sen jo veri tirskahtaa. i can feel how the blood spurts
Vaikk’ on taju himmennytkin, even if my consciousness is dazed
hullu hakkaa vielä nytkin the crazy man strikes again
niskantynkää verta pursuvaa. Hahaa! blood is squirting from the neck. Hahaa!

Kaulavaltimosta veri purskahtaa Blood is squirting from the aorta
ja peittää maan kauttaaltaan. and covers the ground completely.
Mielipuoli nauttii koko sielullaan, The mad man is feeling soulfull enjoyment,
kun raajat kaikki irti saa. when she cuts of all the members.
Kylkiluuhun kirves kirskahtaa, The axe strikes the ribs,
kuola suussa hullu tirskahtaa: saliva is drooling from the mouth:
isken vielä yhden paukun, i strike one more time,
aukaisen mä vatsalaukun. i open up the stomach.
Suolenpätkät ulos kiemurtaa. Hahaa! The intestines wriggles out. Hahaa!

I told him that it was distasteful singing something like that.
That another woman might be scared by that kind
of song. Then he said that I would be running away from him
if I was scared.

At that moment my stomach turned. I told him I was frightened
by his behavior. That I wanted to use his cellular phone so I could
call someone from the cottage. I got the phone and talked with
someone who said that he would send someone to look for us.

I told (H) that there was someone looking for us.
But he continued walking. He had gotten into his head that
we should walk north. I couldn’t do anything but follow him.
I didn’t have any phone with me.

He walked into a swamp. I tried to tell him that it didn’t
make any sense walking north if he didn’t know where we were going.
That we would just get more lost.

I told him I wouldn’t continue walking. Standing in the swamp,
he asked me if my shoes were wet. His shoes were already wet,
so he thought that that made it ok to continue walking straight into
a swamp. I told him I wanted the phone again. That he had to come back.
That it wouldn’t be fair of him not to let me have the phone.

He came back and I talked again with people from the cottage,
who were giving me the advice not to move.

I told this to (H). And started shouting the name of
the person that was out looking for us. We were getting reply
and finally got back to the cottage.

There I asked for a meeting. We were 8 people.
And I think that all of us had suffered from the coarse insensitive
patriarchal behavior of this man during the weekend.

We sat inside the cottage and I told him what I had felt during the
weekend, and that his behavior in the forest had been completely

He refused to take it in. Said that I was just oversensitive
and seeing sexism in places where there was none.
That he in fact was a feminist.

He didn’t understand that he had been behaving badly
until I asked for support from the others.
Each and everyone told him of how they had experienced his behavior
in a very negative way.

For him it was incomprehensible. He didn’t see himself in the same
way that all the others had seen him during these few days.

When we parted on the bus in Espoo. He was saying goodbye.
And saying that he hoped I hadn’t taken last night to hard.
I said that I would go through days of sadness and anger.
“But then you will forget”, he said. I said, “No, I will not forget”.

He never got himself to apologize properly.
But I seriously hope that me writing this palaute [feedback] will help
him make some necessary changes in his behavior.

Or at least warn other women (and sensitive men) of going to
nature trips with this man.

Milla Ahola

THERE were some replies. Mostly positive. And also some really sexist responses, that another man was taking care of, giving a careful analysis of the patriarchal patterns these people (men) were exposing on the list. I was also responding to some of the mails. Both sexist. And also curious mails. Some women wrote to the list about their own experiences within environmental organizations. And one woman wrote for the first time to the list. Writing about her own reflections on gender (not feeling very affected by sexist humor in the work place, saying that it was commonly accepted, and that people were okay with it. and also feeling ok with high heels and make up and “girly” stuff. she also spoke about boundary violations and other experiences of being a woman.). She was asking why i didn’t take this discussion with (H) in person. And also asking if (H) knew her behavior was being discussed on the list. And she was also curious about finding out why i wrote about this event on the list. If it was because i wanted to start a conversation about sexism in general, or if i wanted to warn others about (H).

and this is what i wrote back >>

I don’t care to talk with (H) ever again. He’s done
enough damage. I wrote the palaute [feedback] partly to relieve
the sadness and anger that i felt. Mostly I wrote it to
tell other people what happened to me and how i
experienced this weekend with this man, because
i wouldn’t want anybody to go unprepared on a trip
with him. (not that it would be their own fault if they
would go on a trip with him and he would effect them
in a negative way. the blame would still be (H’s),
of course)

And i don’t see why it wouldn’t be ok to say: “this and this
happened. he said and did this and that. and i felt so and so.
and it shouldn’t happen again. because i see it as wrong.
wrong for me. and wrong for anybody else. let’s not expose
each other to this kind of behavior.”

I’m surprised that there have been this many comments
on the list. I didn’t expect anybody to say anything. And
I didn’t expect that there would be any understanding, but
I’ve been happily surprised.

He’s on the list, [and here i put the full name] so i think it’s safe
to assume that he knows about the discussion.

If you feel that he should have information sent to him directly,
go ahead, do it:

I told him in Nuuksio already how i felt about his behavior.
I used the word traumatized. I was being very frank about
my feelings. And so were others. But he still couldn’t
understand that there would be anything upsetting or
wrong with his behavior. So the answer to your question
would be: yes he knows. but i doubt that he understands.

You mention sexist jokes in your work place.
We have different opinions on the possibility of sexism
being nothing but non-harmful läppää. [talk] I disagree.
I always see sexism as harmful. But that we grow up
with it as a ruling culture, so we think it’s normal and ok.

Today we have the rapper 50 cent visiting Helsinki.
He will stand on stage in front of thousands of young
idolizing eyes, rapping that “there’s no business like
ho business” (the song is called P.I.M.P)

In MTV we have pornography gone mainstream.
Women dressed in nothing rapped around stripper
poles. Plastic surgery shows. And people getting
their ride “pimped”, ie a really nice makeover is being
done to their cars.

It’s out there everywhere. And i don’t accept it.
I don’t see it as a neutral thing. And i see it as
a big puzzle or net, where it’s all connected.

The sexist talk at work is a part of the same sexist
thinking that men have when they call women
whores or treat women in prostitution like “whores”.

I don’t accept any culture that promotes this way
of thinking about women.

And another problem with sexist talk. That even though
it might feel like everybody’s accepting it, that might not
be the case. In Nuuksio, (H) had a few moments when
he was awestruck by the fact that people don’t perceive him
the same way as he sees himself. He suggested that we
could have a “turvasana” [safe word] that people could use whenever
he said something sexist or inappropriate.

I pointed out that i would probably be able to say
something, but that most people are afraid of confrontation,
a lot of people are also afraid of confrontation leading to
violence. So most people don’t say anything. Most people
shut up. And that would have led him to think that if he
would have gone through a whole day without hearing the
turvasana [safe word] mentioned, that that would mean that he wouldn’t
have said anything upsetting that day.

Could I ask how you know that no one is getting hurt
by the sexist humour in your working community?
Have you been discussing it in a safe environment, in
safe settings where everybody has felt that they can utter
their opinion without ridicule?

yes, i do see high heeled shoes as crippling as
the corset or whatever other gadgets and contraptions
that have been invented and used throughout history
to “make women beautiful”.

The subject of sexsim is endless.
I sometimes compare it with racism.
Just like white skinned people are not
aware of the advantages we have.
Men are not aware of the advantages that they have,
in relation to women.

Colored people standing in the post office, bus stop,
being in the metro or in a store. They know what it
feels like when they get that look. They know what it means.
White people don’t. And some won’t even understand
how widely spread the problem is, because it’s something
that they don’t have to deal with on a daily basis,
like a person of color has to.

The same goes for women. We all know what it feels
like getting that look. We know what he means.
But men don’t have to deal with it. Ever. So they don’t
understand how serious it is. How widely spread it is.
And that we have to deal with it day after day afer day.

Sexism is just as serious an offence as racism.
Not a joke.

super model:
little girls:

a girl like me:
there’s also a film about kids trying to flatten their hair,
can’t find it. but you see the “european” hair on all the famous
black actresses, models, singers. the curly kinky hair just wont do.
“When I endured all that pain, literally burning my flesh with lye,
in order to cook my natural hair until it was limp, to have it look
like a white man’s hair. I had joined that multitude of Negro men
and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that
the black people are ‘inferior’ – and white people ‘superior’ that
they will even violate and mutilate their God-created bodies to
try to look ‘pretty’ by white standards.”
— Malcolm X

hopefully some of your questions got answered.

❤ milla


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