Last week on the 24th of January was Compliments Day’, a highly official and ceremonious event indeed. Now, I’m not sure whether this great occasion is a national day of celebration or an international festival, but sadly I let myself down and didn’t pay a single compliment to anyone on that day, preferring to call people a buttface in a low murmur as I usually do. Luckily, however, some male colleagues of mine discovered two very interesting and useful articles helpfully put together by the radio broadcaster Antenne Niedersachsen: ‘What compliments to give a man’ and ‘What compliments to give a woman’. Suddenly I feel an urge to engage my faculties in comparative literature and do a good old compare-‘n’-contrast. Let’s first take a look at what the ladies have to look forward to next year, eh?
EN: “To me, you are irreplaceable.”
I’m not sure whether this compliment is intended for husbands/boyfriends to give to their other halves or for strung-out managers grateful that Coleen has agreed to do another double shift working the chip fryers on a Friday night. Either way, it’s a serviceable compliment but also kindof not a compliment? No one said you would have to replace me…why are you bringing it up all of a sudden? What is that even supposed to mean? Wait, who are those guys with the strait jacket coming up the driveway?
A few months ago, the other web developer in my company suddenly was released from his job as a reward for being a colossal prolapsed rectum. This meant that I became, by default, the ‘lead’ and only web developer.
Today I sat in a meeting featuring one other woman and a substantial troop of men. My new web dev project was mentioned, and immediately the testosterone-havers in the room began confidently and eloquently making decisive statements about the project. My project. Let me re-emphasise: none of these people are professional web developers who will have anything to do with how the product is programmed. Almost all of them were not my superiors. And yet they expostulated and agreed and nodded gravely as if it were a discussion in the Jedi council. When I eventually ventured a sentence myself, the reply was that I shouldn’t sweat the details. It was an absolute masterpiece of mansplaining.
Mansplaining is, particularly in the world of tech, in no sense a rare beast. You will encounter it on a daily basis, and for this reason it becomes mundane; one will probably tend to miss it when it happens, much like one may overlook the beauty of the common sparrow. And yet, like the common sparrow, we must observe it in order to understand it. And sooner or later we must tell our friends about it before we explode with rage in the workplace and end up swearing our tits off next to the printer.
Without further ado, let us take a look at some examples of mansplaining in its natural habitat.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a travel blog post all about Iceland, giddy with the prospect of going there but with very little actual knowledge about the place. Then I actually went to Iceland, did the holiday thing, came back, organised a Cold-War-themed spy mission team building activity (don’t ask), and now here we are. Time for a debrief to see what I got right in my first article and what was fake news.
Yesterday I moseyed on down to my adorable little neighbourhood cinema/public living room to watch a film I’ve been excited about for ages. Blade Runner 2049. This film has 89% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time I am writing this; that’s pretty much 9/10. 9/10 is a terrific score. If your career performance is 9/10 you’re probably reading this on a much nicer laptop than mine in a much nicer apartment than mine drinking a glass of good Shiraz rather than the plastic cup of sugar-free grapefruit Fanta I am unashamedly chugging. If your product is endorsed by 9/10 housewives, you can bet that the last housewife will probably buy it anyway out of socially-anxious paranoia. So this film, I thought, is going to be bloody brilliant. But actually it’s not, I’m afraid to say. Let’s talk about the reasons why and set me up for plenty of lovely online harrassment.
Sitting and talking. Talking and sitting.
Blade Runner 2049 is opulently spectacular. It is so visually amazing (in the true sense of the term, as in ‘oh good gravy I am so amazed’) and sumptuous that it feels somehow high-calorie. I loved every glorious second of the incredible special effects, masterful set/costume design and breathtaking sci-fi landscapes.
Unfortunately this is one of those films that might actually be better if you watched it with the sound off because all the actual stuff in the film ruins it entirely. It is SO LONG and SO LITTLE HAPPENS. The only thing that does happen is characters sitting down, having a drink and talking. They sit and drink and talk about events that we don’t get to see, events which sound like they would have been quite a bit more interesting than yet another scene of people sitting, drinking and talking. It’s like Mad Men without the retro charm and simmering sexual intrigue. The entire film is characters telling each other a very complicated story, at length, in the form of elaborate monologues, droned at each other without much actual back-and-forth. Why are we in this incredible futuristic neoniverse watching people having a nice dram and a relaxing chat?!?
“Wow, you really can’t take constructive criticism, can you.”
“Don’t take these things so personally.”
If you’ve ever said this or something like this to another person, this post is for you. If you’ve ever had this or something like this said to you, this post is for you. If you are a human who lives and/or works with and/or around other humans, this post is for you. And also, in a pretty major way, this post is for me.
You have to have a bloody thick skin in this life. You have to be ready to deal with horrible experiences and feelings on a daily basis and still somehow be able to gird up your loins and do the dishes. I’d say that the backbone of the human condition consists of figuring out a way through a sequence of punishments, occasionally and accidentally stumbling upon joy, until you die. And yes, when you are working or shopping or in any way interacting with the rest of humanity at large, you have to just keep your head down and get on with things.
On the other hand, it’s terrifyingly easy to land in a situation where you hurt or upset someone else without meaning to, or where you are the one who is hurt. Some people deliberately engage in situations where they hurt or upset someone else while fully meaning to. (In the scientific community we call these people douchebags.) No matter which side you’ve been on, you know how it goes: everyone’s engaging in playful banter until one person gets offended about a joke that was made about them, or one of your colleagues is upset because of the funny-but-definitely-not-complimentary new nickname people have started calling them, or you admiringly describe your beefy mate Steve as a ‘big guy’ without realising he’s kinda got issues surrounding his weight. Most of the time this stuff is light and well-meaning, so the person who is upset just takes a deep breath, forgives their fundamentally decent friends or colleagues, and everyone moves on.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Except sometimes life gives you lemons and, like, kale, so you begrudgingly make a green smoothie and feel simultaneously self-righteous and deprived. Sometimes life gives you a cold bottle of artisan lemonade and you get to enjoy it in the sunshine. And sometimes life gives you lemons, bitchslaps you across the face as you are squeezing them, runs off with the juice and leaves you with just the rinds, which leaves you confused and means you now have to take out the compost bin because it was already overflowing.
ANYWAY, none of that means anything and certainly has nothing whatsever to do with the fact that I may or may not be knee-deep in an ever-worsening job crisis at the moment. At times like this one’s mind naturally wanders to thoughts of escape, freedom, a stark change of scenery; so, spontaneously and with a carefree flick of my ponytail, I packed my bags and went for a casual minibreak to Iceland.
Hello everyone. Yes, here I go again, sheepishly squirming my way back onto this blog after another long period of doing other things. Let’s just forego all the apologetic excuses and dive right in.
For the last few months I’ve been off working an actual Full Time Job. This is the first Full Time Job I have had since 2015 when I left my old role of buying underwear for a large American man. This is also my first ever professional post as a proper actual front-end web developer. But most importantly this is my first ever proper job in a GERMAN office.
So then, of course, this immediately opens the door to the potential for thousands of blog posts about office culture over here in Berlin. What’s different? What is the same? What have I learned that makes me feel enlightened and wise about the nature of work itself? Frankly, there is so much material to be written about. I could write about what startups are and contrast that with what they claim to be, now that I am in one. I could write about how the Berliner Schnauze (the term fondly used to describe what is essentially the universal irritated rudeness of Berliners) manifests itself in a work environment. I could write about what it is like to work all day in your non-native language and simultaneously have to write code in another language which only computers speak (it’s exhausting, by the way). This is what I think about all the time: what shall I write about?
Guys guys guys! Sorry for yet another long absence, but I have an excuse this time! I’ve been on holiday in Costa Rica and Nicaragua!
And then of course the question was how to write about it in my blog, because how can I not write about going to freakin’ Central America? Except how can one write about an amazing holiday without sounding like a total arse? Also, how to write about a holiday without sounding like some two-bit travel blogger – especially since travel is not the theme of this blog (not that this blog has much more of a theme beyond ‘Expat maniac rants about vegetables’). And now things are getting even worse because this is becoming a meta-post about writing about how to write a blog entry, and we’re about two sentences away from a tired Inception joke.
Well look: I was there with my ma and pa, which ramps the coolness factor down by at least 25%, right?
“So what’s going on with that bike referendum thing now Rose?” I hear you ask. Good question, helpful ice-breaker person.
Here’s the deal. We had our initial petition over the summer; this petition was to show the government that there is widespread public interest in the issue, meaning that if we were to get over 20,000 signatures (and we got about 105,000) the Senate would have to approve our application to have ANOTHER petition, which would then allow us to have a referendum about the city’s bike infrastructure. Please accept my apologies for the boringness of that sentence.
Anyway, the real drama starts now. The Senate has had months to review our initial petition, and has long ago missed the deadline for giving us the approval for the second petition. This is a problem, because it means that when we do finally get the approval for the second petition, that phase will end a lot later than planned, and so the referendum will also take place a lot later than planned. And that is a problem because the whole idea was to have the referendum at the same time as the big election next year.
Why? Because if you combine your referendum with a larger vote (like an election), you can count on a substantial voter turnout – most people who go to vote in the election will be happy to take an extra second to cross another ballot paper. If the two votes are separate, however, the turnout for the referendum is likely to be tiny. Most humans won’t get off their sofa for anything more effortful than a second cup of tea, let alone traipsing over to some designated Kindergarten lobby or community center. And since the referendum is only valid if a certain percentage of the population vote (regardless what they vote for), it’s likely to be rendered invalid by poor turnout, and it will all end up having been a colossal waste of time and energy. Adding to the annoyment of the whole thing is the fact that having two separate voting events is a lot more expensive for the state, having to organise voting stations and personnel and counters and all that flim-flam twice. And that, of course, will add extra grist to the mill of all the B.O.-smelling, beardy, chain-smoking drivers who already hate cyclists and love to laminate the asphalt with them.
As you may already know, I am on the campaign team for the Volksentscheid Fahrrad, a campaign to have a public referendum about massive improvements to our cycle infrastructure here in Berlin. We had a few manic months of signature collecting and media junket whoring, but at the moment we’re on a kind of autumn hiatus, waiting to see what the new city government will do about us and Berlin’s streets.
Nonetheless, biking is always one of the big things on my mind. Half the time I am gleeful about just how much fun it is, especially since I discovered hundreds of exciting bike adventures on my favourite new app Komoot – who knew that there are so many wonderful cycle routes out there both in and around Berlin, just waiting for me to fall over on them?? The other half of the time, I am agonised by the stressful, manic life of a cyclist in this city. Everything needs to be improved: the cycle paths are lumpy, lethally pothole-ridden, or usually just non-existent; the cobbled streets are so rutted and broken as to make it a roulette whether you will reach the end of each road without your brain being jiggled into a rich smoothie; and the crossings are a confusing noodle-heap of road markings and random plastic roadwork barriers which guarantee that no-one ever knows what the heck is going on.
I am convinced that until we have major works done on the streets in this city, the current traffic rules simply do not allow for the flexibility you need to navigate this place either as a cyclist, pedestrian or automobilist (I say I say) without dying a gory death. I think we need to bring in a set of holistic, compassionate new traffic rules that allow us all to flow through Berlin with the organic fluidity of shoals through a coral reef. So how about this: