This is part 4 of COVID-diaries, where I, the ever-perceptive observer, nonchalantly examine the state of human existence in a time of global crisis. The previous parts are here, here and here.

Break is over and I am back at work, remote of course because COVID is not over, although (in Europe) it almost feels like it is and we have entered the much-awaited new normal where masks, elbow bumps and lines on the ground are everyday biz like handshakes and disrespecting personal space used to be. However, it is still not ok to travel to Finland as they do not trust the inhabitants of Germany not to pollute the country.

But 2020 continues to be an odd year with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and riots, JK Rowling terf wars and our own True Finns party sponsoring “a research” which places women where they should be: firmly between the fist and the stove*. In addition, Berlin hosts several demonstrations every weekend for personal freedom, anti-fascism, far-right, against cruel regimes outside America and so forth. There are so many wrongs I have no clue of and the common denominator for many of these perspectives is that everyone believes they are 100% right. There is no questioning, it seems to be too late for questioning or shades of grey.

However, just for myself to remember the smaller stories, and the shades of grey I found, in all of the above.

  1. The conversation in the periphery of the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted some interesting aspects to structural racism. For example this great article about what Black America means to Europe, my ex-colleague’s extremely personal story about being an Indian woman with two black girls who divorced her black husband, and an article a friend shared on the COVID-racism Asians encountered in Germany. Racism comes in many colours.
  2. Black Lives Matter unfortunately showcased also examples of externalising the problem to the American police force just because their way is so extreme. I cannot fathom how dangerous it is to be black in the US, and I cannot understand why, so easily, the intent is to shoot to kill. But just because the US is in the center, does not mean that we are superior and do not require self-reflection.
  3. And self-reflection does not mean playing ally for the sake of self-promotion and hoping someone will pat you in the back, especially if you don’t have a platform of millions of followers and are basically just screaming into your friend bubble. Just do it, don’t tweet about how others don’t to make yourself look better.
  4. Be kind. A well-intentioned friend got immense backlash on Facebook for using the phrase “all lives matter”. We should remember that not everyone is spending all their waking hours on the Internet reading about what is ok to say in the US and most of us are communicating in a foreign language, removed from the nuances of the words and the cultural context of where the uproars take place just trying to navigate as best as we can.
  • JK. While I don’t agree with her argument (and acknowledge that this, too, is too complicated for my lady brain), I can sympathise with her fear of losing women’s safe spaces. I don’t share that fear, but then again, I have never been attacked. Although this war is yet to get physical in the context of JK, there is also no conversation, just accusations of being silenced and blocking the other party. The saddest part is that at the heart of this argument is access to safe spaces as both parties share the same fear — that of physical violence.
  • I have nothing to say about the True Finns. In these conversations around BLM and JK, I realised that feminism is the cause closest to my heart, and my ability to understand stops with the group that I probably have the best ability to understand because of our shared cultural context. However, I think this is where my privilege kicks in because I was privy to the free education system in Finland which opened some frames of reference which I don’t believe True Finns have access to. For instance, that it is not uncommon in societies for the weak to step on those who are weaker to make themselves feel stronger.
  • In order to look at myself and my prejudices through critical eyes, True Finns is where I should start. Is their anger a result of disenchantment and alienation? Powerlessness? If so, join the club. (Obviously I have a long way to go with this self-reflection.)

I almost wish all this was just the work of Russian troll factories who want to make the world forget that the climate change is still something we should address, together. Trolls we could overcome, but not this warzone of non-conversation and polarised perspectives where you are either with me or against me.

*If some non-Finnish speaker stumbles upon this journal, wanted to translate one of the quotes from the research for your pleasure:

Behind a woman’s no hides a yes, as women typically regulate access to sex in order to improve their status in the marketplace of sex. Therefore, the denial often has a completely different meaning than can be initially determined, and that is why consent or non-consent to sexual interaction cannot be inferred directly from the uttered statement.

The original because I am not an amazing translator.

Naisten kieltäymyksen takana piilee peitelty suostumus, sillä naiset tyypillisesti säännöstelevät seksin saatavuutta parantaakseen omaa arvoaan seksuaalisilla markkinoilla. Näin ollen naisen kieltäytymyksellä on usein täysin erilainen merkitys kuin kielteisestä ensireaktiosta voisi päätellä, ja siksi suostumusta tai suostumattomutta seksuaaliseen kanssakäymiseen ei voida johdella julki lausutusta kannanotosta suoraan.

Grumpy, old woman