Reality Bites

The first time I met an actual victim of sexual violence and knew it, hit me hard. I had studied education and all kinds of violence at university; I had volunteered at a women’s shelter for a short period of time (although all I can recall is my frustration with women going back to their husbands and the ‘no hierarchy’ delusion within the professional team); I quit my studies to become a self defence teacher. I knew what was going on in the world, and still, I was unprepared.

My son was only a few years old, and our au pair came home from her language class telling me about a young class mate who always wore sun glasses and lots of make-up and might be in a situation of violence. Should she help her or not? We discussed options and I offered my help should it be wanted.

A few days later I met a stunningly beautiful girl from Eastern Europe who stood in my hallway, tall and proud, and you could tell that she was not the one to be broken. Until the moment she took off her glasses only to reveal a fresh black eye. Her husband was hitting her regularly and she needed help to leave him as she had no right of residence apart from her right as his wife. Later on in the discussion she lowered her jeans and I saw exactly where he kicked her. I will never forget that picture. It was even worse than the black eye, as it was proof of something happening on a regular basis, not as a singular outburst of violence. This man thought he could treat her as shit because she depended on him. This woman was allowed to stay in my country as the possesion of a man but risked deportation when leaving him – although he was the perpetrator.

She had a long, hard journey in front of her. In  the end, she found a new place to live, a good job and a new family while her ex-husband was convicted for raping and hitting her repeatedly.

6 things I learned along the way

I, however, learned a lot during the process. How blind we are because of the way we live. Everybody considers normal what one experiences every day. One day I asked her: “Why don’t you just go back home? When my husband hit me, I would run straight to my mom.” I learned that there are countries – right next door, not on some far away sub-continent – where divorced women or victims of rape have no chance of getting back into their society as respectable women whatsoever.

How important it is to have native speaking consultants. She was unable to tell me about the rape just because she had no word for it. It was very important to meet someone speaking her language so she could talk about all the nuances of her feelings and experiences. I started to learn the languages of the people I work with. Not because I wouldn’t think they should learn the language of the country they live in (of course they should) but to show my support. Plus, learning new languages helps the brain stay healty, and it impresses people pretty much 🙂

That violence can happen to everybody. Yes, there are people who become victims repeatedly, and there are traits perpetrators look for. But that is no guarantee that it never happens to you or me. The only ‘mistake’ this woman made was trusting the man she loved and moving to his home country with him. Where she knew nobody except his mother who helped her son and who called the woman who accused her precious baby of rape and assault, a slut and a whore. What if our au pair had turned her back on her class mate as so many others did?

That you can survive everything if you refuse to let someone break you. He hit her. He raped her. He called her names. He locked her up. He kicked her. But he never managed to destroy her will and her dignity. He didn’t even manage to destroy her trust in other people.

That you need help, smart help. She did manage to keep her dignity and trust partly because she had help from great people. Our au pair being considerate in the first place. Me being concerned with sexual violence and knowing exactly where to turn for professional help. A consultant, a lawyer and police, even a judge, who all where very clear about who was the victim and who was the perpetrator. Nobody ever suggested that she had her share of guilt in the situation because she was dumb or tempted her husband or whatever the idiot’s arguments sometimes are when women are raped.

That you learn some skills in life only to hope you will never need them. Self defence is definitely my number one on that list.

Take care

Natalie

This article was originally posted on my new blog project Soulskin.news

Why am I doing this?

Do you, too, have those moments when financial pressure overwhelmes you and you consider going back to employment although you are following your passion? I am currently right there, so I started looking out for a part time job in order to have rent, food and healthcare covered. It’s not that I’m not making money. It’s just that income is so different depending on whether it’s in or between terms in university, and I have not yet managed to smooth that. In this situation it’s tough to develop new products of which you know they will require their time until they pay off.

So, yesterday I went to this job interview and I completely screwed it up. I could watch the job slip through my fingers while I poured even more water over the sand. I have to say that I was not a perfect fit anyway, there were two things stated in the job description I had not done before, but that was obvious from my application. So why would an employer then dig into that hole instead of focusing on what I had achieved before?

Missed opportunities

There was no chance of bringing the interview back to my strength, the interviewer was much more skilled in manipulating people than I could ever be. All my questions about the ongoing change project, the political dynamics or specific challenges were squashed. Instead, they asked me totally irrelevant detail questions about stuff nobody needs to know by heart because the relevant legislation is publically available. They asked not one question related to my previous working field, though. I must admit that I am not used to not being considered an expert just for showing up after so many years as a lecturer 🙂 And I completely failed in showing off my expertise.

But the employer failed, too. They were not even clear about the working hours – which is totally in order during a re-structuring. But that was not their point. The answer was: “Well, we’ll discuss that with the applicant. We are short of money and it might be that half a salary is not enough, then someone might want to work 30 hours a week.” Ahm… nope. I am more of the ‘the less you pay the fewer hours you get from me’-type. But if you don’t have the money to pay competitive salaries you might have something else to lure me into your team? – They couldn’t be bothered.

The disastrous financial situation of this charity was all over the local media in previous months. Wouldn’t you expect such an employer to try everything to convince an applicant to chose them regardless of the insecure job situation? Wouldn’t you expect them to explain in detail what they plan to do to save the organisation? Or, if you invited someone who has succesfully turned around an organisation like that before, wouldn’t you ask this person what she would do to help your charity rather than what she knows about the single task of the job description you know she had nothing to do with before?

AAAARRRRGGGGGHHH!!!!!

I left the office knowing I was not good. Which is a pity, I would love to work in that specific sector. However, whether I would be a good fit professionally, I still don’t know because they were so shy about what their situation and challenge is. Every time I went into the direction where I thought the problem was, I saw the HR manager thinking “Fuck off, bitch!”. She was obviously not the kind of guy who often has her decisions questioned. So I can at least state with confidence: A cultural fit, I was not. Unfortunately, if you want to solve severe problems, cultural fits are normally not what you need.

And that was when I realised why being a freelancer is so cool. Nobody cares whether you are a cultural fit. The only thing important is: Are you doing a good job? Clients might even appreciate your outsider’s view. A consultant who questions decisions is not regarded illoyal but a critical analyst. If you try something new, people think you’re innovative not over-ambitious. You accept only jobs you know you can do well and reject all the other stuff because you don’t have to fit a job description.

Still, I cannot help but wonder: Am I such a hell of an employee; or is there such a limited number of good bosses?

Hm. Natalie

What’s up, May?

We had snow this week. Not much, but enough to make me want to snuggle on the sofa with hot chocolate and a christmas movie rather than getting back to outdoor activities. But, with May approaching fast, today I signed up for the 30×30 Outdoor Challenge. I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, and they only run the challenge in May. I grew up on the countryside, but nature has hardly any space now in my modern city-based worklife.

Man cooking at camp
(c) netforever – Fotolia

When I was younger I spent so much time in forests, wandering the fields or sunbathing on the shore. But nowadays I do not even go to the shore in the summer because I hate that I have to drive there, pack everything and then laying there amongst all the other people like fish in a tin. AARRGGGHHH!!!

Positive, Natalie! Here are my

Goals for the next month

  1. Spend 30 minutes outside every day
  2. Re-launch my professional blog
  3. Stick to the habit of daily writing
  4. Spend quality time with my family
  5. Deliver one performance

What are your goals?

Natalie

My Why

The other day I had a heavy conversation with my 17 year old. I happen to call myself a feminist, and he happens to ‘hate feminism’. I wonder how come that he, of all young men, hates feminism when he was raised by a feminist. – Well, of course I do not REALLY wonder. We all wanted to distinguish ourselves from our parents, didn’t we?

What’s more interesting is his argument and what it did to me re-considering my values. The kid grew up in a time and place where women are in general equal – with all pro’s, con’s and flaws. On the contrary, research indicates, that e.g. in schools we have reached a point where it’s the boys who fall behind due to girl oriented schooling. He therefore has a completely different range of experiences with gender inequality than I have.

We talked about why I am into feminism – all humans are born equal – and he said: Yeah, but then what you’re talking about is not feminism, it’s egalitarianism, and I share this value. We agreed on that although I feel like his approach to feminism is flawed. But what can you do about it? It’s flawed for many people who do not want to digg into the various theories of feminism. As with every theory, there is more than one idea of what feminism is and I understand that most people are not attracted to mainstream feminism based on victimisation of females, devaluing men and so called ‘positive’ discrimination.

Egalitarianism?

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1

I love this quote. Of all writings, this is my favourite sentence. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. What a promise!

What people tend to forget is that those  rights are not universal. They are a social convention and as such a matter of change, different interpretations, and even resistance. My approach to rights has always been that rights are not just there, and they are not granted, they must be taken. And in a society they are more often than not subject to negotiation.

Of course I am aware that I live in relative equality. At least when it comes to judicial rights. There are groups which suffer a lot more discrimination than women in general, e.g. the disabled, refugees, mothers (oh, women again), the elderly, people of colour, the poor etc. But guess what? I am white as white can be, I am well educated, I am fairly healthy and I managed to escape the ‘poor’-trap single motherhood is for many. What negatively affects me is gender stereotyping and sexual harrassment.

I totally agree with Theresa Bäuerlein and Friederike Knüpling who write in their wonderful recap of the current state of feminism, ‘Tussikratie‘, that the relevant gap in our societies is no longer between men and women, but between the rich and the poor. Structurally, however, being a woman raises your risk of being poor, too. It’s women who earn less over their lifetime (let’s ignore the reasons here). It’s mostly women who face old-age poverty. It’s women who bear the highest statistical risk for poverty in my home country, namenly when they become single mothers. It’s women who face the toughest discrimination on the job market, namely when they are married mothers. I am not saying men have no problems. Nor am I saying women’s problems are not going hand in hand with men’s issues. They are. I am saying, I am not a man. I am a woman, and I think I should adress issues which affect me.

Therefore, my beloved son: Yes, I share your value of egalitarianism. But my way of living it is to encourage women to use their power.

Because women who take over responsibility for their lifes and decisions free men from the responsibility of caring for them. And that is equal dignity: Shared responsibility.

Putting it all together, feminism, my jobs and my musings on what makes me angry, what people thank me for and the revolution I want to lead, I think I have now extracted my Why.

I strive to establish balance of power. That’s the core of all my activities. Oh gosh, I am into tears. It feels good!

I strive to establish balance of power.

I do so in my job by educating students about the economy and management and I am considering sharing that knowledge with a greater audience through my professional blog (I am indecisive on that one because I feel that’s not my passion although I like my job and my topics). I do so in my hobby by performing as a political comedienne. And I think the passion I’m going to choose to Live my Legend will evolve around empowering women. I have been pondering about an idea for ages now. Maybe it’s time to bring it to light?

Love to all of you

Natalie

Blogging Challenge, Day 14

Today, I am challenged to come up with a list of authors I’d like to meet. I stopped wanting to meet popular people when I grew out of puberty (except a divorced Johnny Depp maybe), so I have to think hard about this one.

However, at Live Your Legend, it’s an imortant part of the game to surround yourself with inspiring people, so that you start to believe you can live the way you want and learn how to do it. Asking who I want to meet has therefore become part of my weekly planning process over the past few weeks. Authors, there are a few.

Authors I’d like to meet

  • Simon Sinek, author of ‘Start with Why‘. He’s smart, does much of what I do in similar ways, and he’s cute.
  • Brené Brown, author of ‘Daring Greatly’. She is an ethnographer and I am into social sciences, too. I’d love to learn from her about the method of ethnography and how to derive concepts from the massive amounts of data.
  • Chris Grey, author of ‘A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Organizations‘ and various articles on management I devoured. Should I ever get my stuff together and feel ready to work towards my PhD (i.e. moving back to London), he would be my first choice as a supervisor. He has such a pragmatic, yet ethical approach to management and management education, I would love to discuss those topics with him.
  • T.C. Boyle, author of the book which disappointed me, ‘San Miguel’. I love him in interviews, and I’d really like to have a couple of pints of Guiness with him and figure out how such a person can write such a boring book.
  • Michel Houellebecq, author of ‘Submission‘, a book I thouroughly enjoyed. I don’t know what it is, having read only one of his works yet, but I feel attraction to his line of thinking and describing people and society. He even makes me want to improve my French, so that I can enjoy his writings without the noise of a translator.

Salut

Natalie

In honour of courage

Have you ever experienced how sadness and anger are often just one breath apart? It is said that some people use anger to hide their sadness, and others, who are afraid of their anger’s power turn to sadness to protect themselves and others. This might be one explanation for reactive depression.

The book that made me sad also made me angry. It’s Sabine Dardenne’s ‘I Choose to Live‘. For those of you who don’t know her story: Sabine was 12 year old when she was kidnapped by Marc Dutroux, Belgian’s most popoular – is popular a good word in this case? – paedophile serial killer, back in 1996. It was a huge topic in European media, as Dutroux was considered part of  a massive cycle of paedophiles abusing children around Belgium.

Sabine was held capture in the basement of Dutroux’s house and sexually abused for three month before she was found by the police only because the kidnapper was observed kidnapping another girl to keep her company. Police found four other missing girls dead, buried in Dutroux’s gardens. – Oh gosh, I want to vomit!

Sabine’s recall of what happened to her is hard to read, although she leaves out most of the details. And although she survived, obviously. I constantly wonder how such a young girl finds the courage to stand up against the man she absolutely and in every regard depends on. I have only admiration for Sabine’s courage and strength. And still, it makes me sad. It makes me sad for the time she lost and the things she had to bear. It makes me sad for every other victim, girl or boy, man or woman, of someone who thought he had the right to abuse them for his / her own delight. It makes me sad for the families’ loss. It even makes me sad for the world and what we lost because kids were not allowed to grow up to be good people and put their dent into the world.

When I think about the perpetrators, I feel hot anger and I fancy the idea of becoming a contract killer. But then, something inside of me knows that taking a life is wrong, even such a life. Why do some people not have this sense of ‘wrong’ and control over themselves? I totally don’t get that. And because I don’t know what to make of my anger, I become sad again.

Which I want to stop. I promise to myself I will turn back to fighting ignorance and violence, to turn my anger into something productive; something more productive than sadness can’t be hard to find. When I was younger, I was a self defence teacher. Why did I stop?

Wonders

Natalie

Back to Basics

Isn’t it funny how sometimes, when you are desperate for finding something new, you go through weeks of self-reflection, talking to other people and reading massively about changing your life, you arrive at something that has been with you for ages, and you see it in a completely different light?

No? Then you might have just gone through your first round of evaluating your life. Me, I do so on a regular basis, and I feel like I always come back to the same point, albeit on another level. It’s not a circle, but a spiral. Which sometimes feels a bit disappointing. I admit that I am waiting for this big bang moment, the heureka when I find my true passion. And then there is only this tiny, silent: ‘Ah, there YOU are again’.

Of course that makes sense. I am convinced that people know exactly what they want to do, maybe they are a little bit confused about the why. And they are afraid or just don’t know that it’s possible. Then they turn to the self-help industry and all the experts out there telling you, not what you want to do, but how to find out what you want to do. But that’s not the point – although I encourage you to do that, because it helps finding confidence about what you want and why; and confidence you are going to need a lot on your new path.

The point is to dare following your passion. Just do it. There is no need to find some extra-ordinary, life-altering, crazy stuff worthy to blog or write books about. Just do what makes you happy. And if it’s becoming rich and popular, have fun! And if it’s marriage and a bunch of children, go for it! And if it’s a revolution on management education – well, then I would happily have you in my corner. Because that is my passion. And it has been for while. I only lost the fire because I hate the working conditions in my industry. I need to find new ways to teach management skills, economic knowledge and critical thinking about the relationship between business, politics and society to everyone.

HEUREKA!

Natalie