“Tener paciencia y maldecir pacito”

“Have patience and curse quietly”

“Tener paciencia y maldecir pacito”

“The instruction not to complain can be internalized, because that is what you had been taught, that to complain is to be oversensitive, to be easily affected, easily hurt, bruised, damaged. What others say to you repeats what you have said to yourself. What you say to yourself repeats what others have said to you. The work of complaint can involve an internal process of coming to terms with what you are experiencing. Even if you have to complain about something that is being done to you, whether by somebody else or by a structure that is enabling somebody else, you still have to come to terms with yourself. A complaint can feel like an existential crisis, a life crisis.” (Ahmed 2021: 114)

I am a woman; I am young, have tattoos, and like punk and emo. That characteristic makes me see myself as a professional without experience, and we are used to seeing youth as a flaw. 

I was working in a private school as an English teacher. I taught in high school. I liked my job because I could share with my child, who studied there. Besides that the school was beautiful, with a lot of green and animals, we had pure air all the time. 

One of my colleagues was an older man working there for a long time—that person used to teach English to the student I was now leading. And I think that is why he thought, even if that was not his responsibility, to supervise my work.   

This teacher started to call me “the emo teacher,” he used that nickname without my authorization, and he used it because he could be related to the way I dressed. I like punk, emo, neopunk. I love that music and its aesthetic, but that has nothing to do with how professional I am.  

He makes me suggestive comments, looks at me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable, and harras me via WhatsApp. Furthermore, I did the whole work in the English area, and he always took all the credit. 

Once, he called me at 7:00 am on a Sunday to ask me for money, and he threatened me, saying: “If you lend me that money, I will tell you what thoughts has the school principal about you and why they hate you so much.”

(I need to clarify here: I have anxiety and depression, and those comments are not suitable for my mental health. This condition was well known in the school, and he took advantage of it, so I lent him the money) 

As he was a teacher working there for a long time, it was difficult for me to complain to my superiors. Especially as I said before: “we are used to seeing youth as a flaw.” I knew no one would believe me, or nothing would happen. Additionally, that process would mean something huge for my mental health lead. 

As I was tough as a child, we needed to “have patience and curse quietly.” So that was what I did. I wanted to have a low profile and keep my distance from that teacher. That was super difficult because we work in the English area. I already decided to change jobs as soon as the year-end because I did not want to cut the process I had with my students. 

One day I arrived at the school, everything was normal, and one person from the principal office asked me in a demanding tone that I had to go to the office. They did not even let me go to the teachers’ room to leave y stuff there. When I got into the room, the principal, the coordinator, and a lawyer waited for me. Apparently, the teacher who has been harassing me accused me of harassment because I said: “my love” to one of the students. 

It is not OK to corner someone, and I felt accused without my right to defend myself. I could not believe what was going on. Saying in a lovely way to a student was not, for me, sexual harassment. I was shocked, and the coordinator said: Is there something you wanted to tell us? 

Even if I did not want to complain about the abuses I received from that colleague, at this point, I saw my opportunity. It was evident that these people had no idea what was going on with that teacher. 

So, I told them everything. And as proof, I showed some screenshots of the chat on WhatsApp. They were stunned. They did not have complete control of the situation (“El sarten por el mango”) as they thought. 

The person that accused me was, in fact, a stalker. Could you imagine? If that behavior had to me “another teacher,” What could he do with a student? At that moment, the institution (The school and the principal) see themselves cornered. They know that my accusations are severed, and I had proof. 

So by then, the narrative and their behavior had changed. The voice tone was not rude anymore. I felt relieved because I could take all out of my system. The meeting ends with the agreement that that teacher or I will continue working there. However, there would not be any process against that person. As institutions tend to do, the institution will protect that kind of people. 

With time I found that that teacher is still working in the school. It is always more important to maintain the reputation than the truth. More important than protecting the institution’s students and workers. They always manage the problems under the desk without giving them a real solution. Institutions tend to wait for the environment to calm down and do nothing, which causes this kind of abuse never stops. 

There are no supporting routes to this kind of case. The private schools have an inner regulation that can apply as they want. But the people do not know how is the complaint route. I feel after this experience that the complaint does not have any effect if the institution does not want to make a change. 

This story was told in a meeting between two friends on the 19 of February 2022.


“Ayúdate que yo te ayudare”

“Help yourself that I will help you.” 

“Ayúdate que yo te ayudare”.

“The decision whether to complain is usually made in the company of others; you will most likely receive advice, suggestions, and guidance from peers as well as friends, whether welcomed or not.28 You might decide not to complain because you cannot deal with the consequences of complaint that have been made vivid to you through warnings.” (Ahmed 2021: 24)

I am a psychologist, and I work at the Women’s Secretariat, an institution created to help women who suffer or have suffered some kind of violence inside or outside their homes. 

My work has to do with the “restitution” of rights that have been violated. This word causes me a lot of conflicts: Who am I to restore someone’s rights? How do you restore rights? 

First of all, as civilians, we do not know our rights, just as we do not know our duties are in many cases, but if we are not even clear about this, how can we know when our rights are being violated? 

In a hypothetical scenario where people know their rights, they would know when they are being violated. But even so, they would not know which routes to restore those rights. Every time a request is broken, a debt is generated. Because everyone should have access to the same rights. 

With this in mind, my job is to accompany the women who contact us for help. In this scenario, I am the institution. I must activate the route to give them the legal and psychological support they need. I am an institution that helps women enter the system to achieve justice and the security that many of them are looking for. 

This sounds very nice, but there are many factors against it. When a woman calls, she must explain that she must initiate a legal and psychological process. And if necessary, if her life is in danger, asylum should be sought immediately in a women’s home. These houses are temporary spaces where they can go to live with their sons and daughters in case they live with the aggressor, as happens in most cases. 

After informing her of everything, I must know everything because I am also violating her if I don’t. At this moment, I feel that I am opening boxes within boxes because I must help these complaints to prosper. Still, the institution does not guarantee the professionals who work there training on the constantly changing processes.

My job is to teach her how to access the legal language because if she can express the violence, she has suffered, the system and the law can accept her. Many things can play against her. For example, if the person does not know how to read or write, I assume this role (I cannot tell her to fill out this form or read this information and tell me if she has any questions). 

Another critical factor is revictimization. There are two types of revictimization: The first is to tell the story without advancing the process, whether legal or psychological. This is very painful, and doing it without purpose can make it even more difficult. The second is secondary revictimization, which is to tell the story again, but to advance the process, i.e., before an institution: family police station, judges, lawyers. In these contexts, telling the story is an end in itself, and for this reason, it is necessary. 

It is imperative that the woman has her story in order and knows how to express herself coherently because the legal system does not work based on emotion. This revictimization is painful but necessary to enter the institution. 

As an institution (being myself the institution when I talk to these women), I must tell them that it is teamwork and that these are slow processes. I can help them, but they must also do their part to make progress. 

As a worker in the institution, the number of complaints and cases that I have to deal with is overwhelming. In 6 months, I wrote more than 200 emails and dealt with more than 250 cases. It is complicated to handle 250 psychological processes simultaneously with telephone appointments of 30 minutes each. 

The complaint within the complaints

It is clear that no matter how much I want to help these women, the system absorbs you, and you end up dealing with a complaint, not a person, a cause, not a person, one more violence. But the truth is that if you do not humanize the complaint, nothing happens. Behind all the forms, hearings, emails, and calls, a woman is suffering violence. Unfortunately, the system dehumanizes us, them, and us as workers. 

This story was told in a meeting between two friends on the 16 of February 2022.


“No sea sapo”

“Don’t be a toad.”
“No sea sapo”

“Knowing how complaints can be sticky, as well as picky, she gave herself instructions not to complain: “I told myself to shut up. I told myself not to talk, not raise questions and just be invisible.” When you have something to say but realize it would be costly to say it, you have to keep telling yourself not to say it. Institutional passing can be the effort to maximize the distance between yourself and the figure of the complainer. You might try to pass not because you identify with them or wish to be one of them but just because it is safer not to stand out.” (Ahmed 2021: 155)

I am a doctor, and I believe that complaining is for the brave. Because when we complain, we need to expose the situation we are complaining about repeatedly. In a case in which we have been violated, we have felt insecure and powerless. We must tell our story, hoping to be heard and hoping something will change. 
During my undergraduate internship in obstetric medicine, I was amazed by some mothers’ mistreatment when having their babies. The system dehumanizes doctors, leaving them with no more energy than they need to deliver a baby as quickly as possible. 
First, the shifts are so long that you don’t care who is on the other side in the end. You want to finish fast. There the system wins. A patient is just another number. Never mind that it’s the big day when the nine-month wait is finally over, and you finally see your baby’s face. It’s just another number. 
Secondly, the position in which mothers must give birth is not the right one. Many indigenous cultures give birth in a squatting position because gravity helps the baby come out easier, and pushing is not as painful. The system won. Doctors are used to pain. 
Third, there are so many women in the delivery rooms that it is impossible to provide an excellent service to all of them. The important thing is the “product,” the baby. The important thing is to get it out as quickly as possible in the best possible conditions. Cesarean sections have even been performed that was unnecessary because the breast took too long to dilate. Women have to say yes because they are not 100% informed of what is happening at that moment. The system won: How many babies per minute? 
Humanized childbirth is a concept where that kind of thing doesn’t happen. The mother has total control over her labor. The decisions she has to make are informed. The point is that there shouldn’t even be a “humanized birth” because all births should be like that. We women have been taught that life is not easy and that we should not complain. Because besides, if we complain, nothing will likely happen. 
The system has completely drained the will of doctors; everything is numbers and money. Anyone who complains about the system is a toad, that is, someone who “talks too much,” but not being a toad has led us to perpetuate an inhumane system. It has shown us to have medical appointments where the doctor cannot take his eyes off the computer. 
The skepticism of complaining has accustomed us to the fact that it is easier to put up with it than to complain and carry out a process within the institution. 

This story was told in a meeting between two friends on the 13 of November 2021.


Complain or not Complain?

Complain or not Complain? 

I have encountered many crossroads when wanting to make a complaint. 

I feel like two people:

The first one thinks it will be a lot of wear and tear, both physically and mentally. 

It fills out forms, makes calls in two or three different languages, and explains repeatedly. It seems to be very exhausting. In the end, I think it’s better not to do anything. 

Entering the system just the idea of entering the system becomes so exhausting that there is no point in doing it. I feel anxious about entering that Kafkaesque world full of dead-end paperwork. 

The second one, motivated by reading Sara Ahmed’s book, thinks that making the complaint and taking it to its ultimate consequences is exhausting but satisfying. At least I now know the system’s methods for wanting to stop me. I can already name them (nodding, circularity, blanking), which makes me able to overcome them.

Also, if no one complains, nothing will happen, but if, little by little, everyone starts complaining, things may take a different turn. The most important thing is that I know that I am not the only person in the middle of this. Unfortunately, many have suffered some violence, which perhaps has led to a complaint process. For better or worse, there are many of us, and we can help each other in the process. 

Questioning the idea of complaining about how to face that big wall, that door, made me want to share it with my friends, how they had suffered some violence that they had complained about and how the institution responded to them. Also, what they perceive when they are inside the institution. 

I talked to them and explained what the book I was reading was about. We set up a meeting and spoke about these types of situations. I was amazed at how the system consumes all of us, but I was even more surprised at how they continue to fight within the system. It is something that we cannot avoid, but we can accompany each other, listen to each other, be the feminist ear. And try to change the system, some from the inside and others from the outside. 

“Not complaining becomes a virtue, a kind of calm patience, a positive outlook, as if waiting is what would make something fine, as if the best way to approach a wrong is to wait for it to right itself. “(Ahmed 2021: 76)

I identify with this quote from Ahmed because I have often decided not to complain, and when talking to my friends, I have realized that we are very used to enduring and staying in this “calm patience.” I think we are changing that, little by little. 

The next post will be written in the first person about some experiences that some of my female friends experienced.

“In trying to get a complaint through the system, you end up taking on a role to modify the system” (Ahmed 2021: 53) 

I wanto to belived that sentece of Ahmed, I want to modify the system. 


“El que no chilla no mama”

Better not to complain:

We are used to not complaining because it is easier. The person who wants to complain about something is seen as the weak. We have to be strong no matter the conditions or situations that we are going through.

If a kid it’s been bullied and complains with the teacher about his bully, he will receive a social punishment with their pairs. Because of his complaint, it’s been seen as something wrong.

If a woman complains to her family about her new husband, she will be told to fix her marriage. Because of her complaint, it’s been seen as something wrong.

If a worker complains to their coworkers about their boss, they will be told to be thankful for a job. Because of his complaint, it’s been seen as something wrong. 

El que no chilla no mama:

In Colombia, there is a saying that is: “El que no chilla no mama” that could be translated like: “A baby that doesn’t cry gets no milk” or “If you don’t cry, you get no treatment.” And it is the opposite of what we have been told. The idea of a baby crying is clearly a complaint, and then the baby gets the reward for the milk.

Nevertheless, Colombian people do not make so many complaints. Even when the social gap in Colombia is enormous, people tend to hold a lot with their jobs, the inequity, the social problems, etc.

Colombians also say that they are “gente berraca” which means: that they are “brave people” and always going forward no matter how difficult the situation is.

It’s a contradiction to feel brave when you hold and tolerate, but not when you make a complaint. The “berraca” (brave) people do not cry and do not complain.

But, sometimes, something breaks.

Last week a driver of the public transport system of Bogotá (SITP, Sistema integrado de transporte público) stopped the bus in the middle of a route, asking the people inside the bus to go down and quit his job. He replies that he could not tolerate this job more, and social media explodes. Many people made fun of him, but also some people supported him. He complained out of the system; he did not write a resignation letter or talk to his boss. He tried to hold and hold as much as possible. But, sometimes, something breaks someone breaks.

“no aguanto más” – I can not take anymore

Now I understand that complaining does not make me less brave (less “berraca”). I do not need to walk on the edge, waiting to support as much as possible before complaining. Even if you do not make a formal complaint inside the system, complaining with your friends makes you feel lighter. The importance of the complaint is first to be heard and second to change something. To make a change, we all need to complain or hear the other one complaining.