As a woman, complaining is not something that comes easily. From birth, we are conditioned to view womanhood in a very restricted way, and this extends to our attitude towards complaining. A woman is supposed to be sweet and demure, effortlessly beautiful, and clean, passive, and dependent on our male counterparts! The reality of womanhood is much uglier, much grittier. There is much to be angry about once our shared history is fully excavated. A young woman’s feminist awakening is often horrific, and her protests often fall on deaf ears.
What’s the point in having the right to vote when our voices just bounce back off the wall?
I am from Northern Ireland, a country notorious for letting down its women. In my lifetime, I have seen the decriminalisation of abortion versus the reality of not actually providing safe, accessible healthcare. I have seen women prosecuted for a miscarriage, for procuring abortion pills for her underage daughter. I have seen a high-profile rape case against two rugby players thrown out, and with no negative effect on their careers – I still think of that poor girl, her bloodstained underwear passed around the court. I have heard stories of “mother and baby homes” where vulnerable and isolated young mothers as young as 12 were forced to work, their babies ripped from their arms minutes after birth (we should not have to know the phrase “12-year-old mother”). At the time of writing this, another young woman from Ireland has been murdered in broad daylight. She was out for a run at four in the afternoon. She “did everything right” – a sentiment that erases the actions of the man who killed her. Women should not have to conform to a set of rules to be granted the basic human right of existing without fear. The narrative that surrounds cases such as these hints at these “rules“ each time, focusing on where the victim was, what she was doing, whether or not she was by herself, without turning to stare at the elephant in the room: the story of violence against women at the hands of men is centuries old. It shows no signs of stopping. Society refuses to attack the problem at its root, instead looking back and asking, “What could she have done differently?” The rules we have had laid out for us do not apply. We could „do everything right“, we could take every precaution to make our lives as risk-free as possible, and there is still every chance that we could die despite it all.
My point: we have been complaining for years. We can do nothing BUT complain. There are so many human rights that we have been denied, and the white Christian majority that run our country just smile and nod. How could one NOT complain when so much is so fundamentally wrong? How do so many of these issues end up being framed as being OUR fault? We are told not to get pregnant, not to find ourselves alone, not to get too drunk, not to get spiked, not to get raped. It’s rotten and condescending.
The foundations of Northern Ireland are rotten, and its women are falling through the forming cracks.
The summary was urging to be done and therefore, we are coming back to the roots: the place where the complaints were planted, watered, and let out by the complainer-creator, to the#0.
I do wonder sometimes why I have started voicing the itchiness I encountered. The following question would be why I do art. Then again, after rereading the displeasures once in a while I always bump into the satisfying answer. Moreover, I love my army of complaints. The question would pop up: how is it possible to have an emotional connection to the displeasure? I might not be able to explain it well, but assume that for me it comes from the joy of complaining, the power of reflecting, something very personal, one-man therapy, the empathy with the protagonists of my story, and most importantly, being able to be vulnerable somewhere, more than anywhere else. The topics that I touched through my displeasures are a good base to realize what are the itchy places and triggers, more precisely the base for future complaints and that is, my complainers, what I was looking for a while. I might be my own feminist ear.
STICKY DATA: Complaints framed as self-damage
Is it, now when I opened these very personal, but very public questions and realized how sticky they are? Now, when I am aware of the damage that has been made? It can not be more of destruction than actually taking the words and bringing them into action. I and my displeasures are already here, which is, as I experienced, definitely not enough. Otherwise, Ahmed would call it a fatalist process (opened and started just in order to be initiated). But I would say that if my voices are burning now, there must be the next stage. Therefore, let me complete this action until it gets visible.
WHAT A LOVELY WAY TO BURN
After voicing displeasure #The Code of Visibility, I could finally cry my life off, after months of holding it back. The wonderful moment of being able to tell him how hurt I was is not the pathetic story about my father, as I always thought. It is the voice of all the girls in the world that were abandoned, living with the thought that they made a mistake. It is the voice of the anger, the spit of the tension that pierced my belly for years. Thinking about the children that are very present in my everyday life, I pictured the visibility that their complaints are creating: the contrast of being taken too seriously, or not at all. I have been observing both their creation of visibility and complaining in front of the authorities and I actually found something useful to apply in my own practice.
Never mentioned before that I have always been disguised and repelled by the way my family structure is described in the official documents. It gave many people the right to comment and construct their own perceptions of the two members of my nuclear family. I hated the way they victimized my mom seeing her as a tortured, poor woman, the single parent left alone. Once, in the report of a school psychologist, she wrote:the child’s lack of motivation due to the consequences of her broken family. Whatever would change in my behavior, that was considered weird, it was always attributed to the crack I was born in.
Once, I cried in front of a 5 years old girl I babysat because her toy/doll family construction matched mine very well. Instead of stopping the professional cry, I started the professional complaint in front of her and the game was successful. The feminist ear has no gender and no age.
voicing the burning
#The Professional Cry is a fusion that gravitates and connects displeasures written before and after it. It is, indeed very much connected to the first displeasure #Feminine Masculinity. Both empowered my female/male voice and helped me understand the NO complaint. I was not respecting my own body, and my own little girl cried inside me every time I gave it to them. I was sexually harassed, taken advantage of. I experienced verbal abuse not knowing that what has been happening is wrong. I never told that to anyone, because they would immediately give credit to the broken family situation: seeking love more than others, daddy issues, loneliness, not having a man figure to look after, etc. I am not saying that traces of the crack are not present, but how dare you? Developing masculine femininity is a process and I prefer saying that my deep voice is therefore a social construct.
#The Crying Honk was, on the other hand, at the beginning very general, global, touching something outside of my body. I started writing it after the second day of my trip to Egypt thinking about the reflection on the way. After a while, it became strongly personal and I noticed that this was the task of mine, the one this life urges me to have: I am the voice of the children. I always felt this whisper more than others and whatever is the context, I ended up working with kids. At least I know whom I inherited this complaining skill from. Therefore, the more honest and radical I was, the more visible I became. This might also be called radical softness because my words are written faster than my brain can check them. I am simply unloading and emptying my cabinets within each letter.
NOWHERE TO GO, BUT READY TO BURN
So, how to treat these empty pieces of furniture that are piling up? How to fold all these tears and screams-soaked napkins? Where to store them? The collection of the voices, cabinets of displeasure, university of ears, feminist laboratory, collective hug, complaining choir – (some)where to go?
I have a trillion questions while burning on my own and some of them are adding oil on fire, while some are swallowing me even more into the topic. I am asking:
What is the difference between psychotherapy (type of a feminist ear), official complaint (including administrative process e.g), and art practice here, for me? What am I proposing and voicing?What wouldhappen when the voices are heard and the cabinet is exposed, becoming visible? Will my writings hug the people, motivate them? What do the complainers need? Is it more of the introspection and individual complaining experiences or the instruction of how to make an act?
Until all of them are answered, until it all burns.
The sound of collective praying made me tremble. I heard the voice coming from the top of Ibn Tulun mosque communicating with the other voices, the choir of Al-Qāhirah. The collective vibration transmitted through the architecture gave birth to a sobbing city I had a chance to encounter.
Why are you crying? ارجوك لا تبكي.
All the best from the West
Scared for my white skin, I walk through the dusty bubble and pray for my white skin not to get dirty. For my white skin not to get raped. For my white skin not to experience poverty. My privileged, white body prays for the kids from this street, for the mango traders of Bazar, and the mothers feeding their newborns on the pedestrian zones, beyond the legs of passengers. The white privilege that I have not chosen but was given to me. With the whiteness and ability to wash my face after a long day on the streets, I dare to ask: how can we be part of the same planet? Me and this little girl in front of me, being alone on the street? We, small humans spreading inequality. We, mute humans, do not hear the cry.
On day 4, I slowly accepted these scenes as a part of the landscape and got used to poverty.
Honk for the existence
Being loud or visible has many purposes: from the simple joy of having attention to the emergency blankets, danger alert, and simple, everyday fear. I find the ambivalence of the honking orchestra here being disturbing and meditative simultaneously. The sound of confirming the presence on the road.Another form of crying, right? Traffic tears, polluted breath, screaming brakes.
Somehow, this typical Egyptian honking practice sounds very much like my own cry – hysteria, anger, the language of the unique emotions. Imagine honking as the only voice you can use. The honking makes you want to explode in your own anxiety and drown in your own tears. Or in mine, if you wish.
Who takes the pictures of the otherness and who is the otherness?
“The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony.”
Said, Edward W. 2003. Orientalism
The postcolonial studies introduced us to the Westerns depicting the Orient as an irrational, strange, weak, feminized “Other”, contrasted with the rational, familiar, strong, masculine West. I would gladly comment on something that opposestheotherness, the one belonging to Orient (from the previous view), and reflect on my own, Occident otherness experience in Egypt. It is very important to underline my position here: I am not a scientific researcher on the topic, nor competent to discuss postcolonialism on any deeper level. The fact that these were my first steps out of Europe and the ways I used to experience each of them urged this reflection and made it very personal.
As I have already voiced in one of my displeasures, it feels that my everyday purpose is to be visible wherever I am and no matter what I do, say, or behave, my visibility was never so present (I dare to say even successful visibility in my case) like here. It is not me, Nadja, being exotic otherness in Egyptians eyes, but us, Nadjas that came to enjoy the heritage of their country and leave a few pounds more, possibly. And here I was even more white and prestigious, being considered a German within the group of German students I came with. What fascinates me among many things here is the way of communication that consists (besides the honking) of a couple of questions as where are you from; what is your name; and multiple versions of welcome to Egypt. These questions are never meant to actually be responded to, but to deepen the conversation, lead to the possible trade, and give them ”the promise”. Each word answering their conversation starter is a permission to enter the platonic friendship where you are the one promising to buy, to sit there and, necessary, come again. Such intensity in everything happenings. Welcome, to Cairo, they said.
What is your name?
My name is Nađa, that, according to Russians comes from Nadezhda (Надя) meaning hope. According to Arabs comes from Arabic Nadia (Nadiya) meaning moist; tender; delicate. One of the sellers from Bazar told me that the meaning is a short, but very fast river. I wanted to run aweay, that's true. So, you are Egyptian? I was asked.
The first time in this symbolic 25 years I exist in this world, somebody took the picture of me because I was different than everybody else there. I was the exotic, fascinating alien among the ordinary, everyday man on this continent. Instead of giving the superiority that attention usually does, I felt the opposite. I felt small and different in front of the whole world that I had no idea about. I felt the heaviness of the cloak of otherness that was worn by the people of color in Europe, Muslims praying on the street of the Orthodox country I came from, the women with hijabs, etc. Their unusual, extraordinary behavior or look was taking the attention of ”normal” white people and now, it is was me: an alluring, foreign subject.
I would revive the Serbian saying ”Šta je, jel igra bela mečka?‘ (eng. Is the white bear dancing or what?), the term we use for an event that evokes the curiosity of random passers-by. Apropo this saying, I wonder, who is the white bear and who is the spectator, actually? It might be that the white bear is the observer and he does not need to be tamed.
Gold-coated, crying city
Not goldening it more than it is, it is the fact that Egypt has been visited for its archeological heritage as a golden civilization that left magnificent traces dating back from the world we have no idea about. This golden coat kicked me after I left Cairo and woke up the following morning on the night train in Luxor. There I understood the massive tourism of the Serbs used to go to Hurgada every year, as well as other people visiting Egypt and seeing just Lux(or). Nobody enjoys truly the 67 layers of dust on their faces while being trapped in the traffic sandwich between the cars, buses, auto-rickshaws, and running pedestrians in Cairo. Rarely who want to live in these conditions. I do not. Yes, we are contributing through tourism and we should keep doing it. No, Egypt is not just a sandy kingdom and Giza. That is all I wanted to comment on.
Again, how to be sure that this is not one more reflection fabricated by a western explorer?
Now, poetry for the poor. (ref. Architecture for Poor, Hasan Fathy)
Welcome to the Strange Fruits episode of the Voiced Displeasure. Maybe the least favorite one, but tasty, for sure. Poetic, inevitably. The main protagonist relates to the 3 sections: Juice, danger, and joy; Systems, sugar, skin, and stain; The land of rightness, emptiness, and gray color. Next time instead of the external keyboard, you might bring the fork.Have you ever heard a fruit talking? Did you find it uncomfortable? Understandable. No judgments. This is a safe space. Let´s bite.
JUICE, DANGER, AND JOY
”I am a little parasite stuck on your ceiling, watching and waiting for the right moment to grab your face. I am an angry skeleton under the thousand layers of this skin blanket. I want to get out of my colonized past.
I am the one you want to squeeze. My lemonish, bitter body is hanging on the walls of your borders. Experience the haptic touch of this nectarous object – me. Me, the stranger. You – domestic. Me – the dirt on Your floor. You – the boundary. My amorph shape stands out from the crowd, breaks the concrete, entering the void.I produce joy. Try me. I am a violent inhabitant trying to break your comfort. I am the stain spot of this system.
These little hands were holding the poles in the foreign trains and buses, being observed. My hands are being watched – the way they move, how the fingers fold and dance around the strange objects. I am the sensation. My legs are making the gaps between the foreign feet, stepping into the unknown. Kissing the strange ground, while dropping the strange juice into the dry field. My earlobes are made of sugar, melting in the strange air. My lungs are suffocating from the bizarreness of this place. Its mystifying inner shakes my foreign outer. Its breeze freezes me. I must get out.”
SYSTEMS, SUGER, SKIN, and STAIN
The land of rightness, emptiness, and gray color
Welcome to Saxony, the land that tears the skin of the beast.Welcome to the act of peeling one’s outer. Chemnitz means stones, coming from the language that I can understand, for some reason. Welcome to Chemnitz, friends. Welcome these words that are coming and be free to dive into the experience.
”The strangeness climbs through my spine, from the bottom. Slowly and precisely it covers the whole backside. I feel the structure and heaviness of my skull. My earlobes are collapsing. My head leans towards the shoulders as if it is going to fall. I feel alienated from the outside.
Some parts of my body feel numb. There is a space around my inner skin that I have no contact with. I turn my head to the right I look at one point. My attention stays in the corner of my eye creating the tension of the eye muscle. I can see the small humans inside a human, I sense how they move around me. I see the shadows of these bodies, I feel the coldness piercing my outer strongly through the borders. IAM THE OTHER. The other on many that are the same.
I slowly pull my own inside towards the outside shell. I humbly tore the skin of a creature. I peel the layers of its skin and try to get out. It lasts and feels like forever. I am the stain spot on this map. Pulling. Vibrating. Pushing. I am so alive.”
PS: NEVER EAT THE FRUITS YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE.
Salty liquid. The sea of the eye lobe. Isn’t it absolutely the same as going to pee? Goes in – goes out. I drop the tears and let them unite into the army. Teary tear, just be.
There was me and four girls from Iran, by coincidence. We were trying to empower our feminity and learn to say NO. We said NO many times in these three hours. I almost broke into the tiniest thousand pieces of human flesh. I tried not to. Never show the instability, delicacy and fragile persona. Drop the humor, start the joke. It is not professional to cry.
The third girl said that she feels this socially constructed burden and pressure of being the ideal worker, the best one in the world. The best one in the class. The best one in the bed. The best from the best. Best beast in the wildness.
Me? I bumped into the presence of the physical objects being inside my body because my clock tik-tak-ed and it was time to drop it. What is this pile of thorns which pierce my stomach?
You are not allowed to be a pussy. You are not allowed to be a pussy. If you are going to be a pussy, be the best one you can possibly be.
You are not a blowjobin the rain. You are not apiece of meaton the bar’s toilet tiles. You are the deepest voice of Southeast Europe.
”You are a boy, aren’t you?” I was asked by Frauenarzt (gynecologist) on the first call I made after moving to Germany. I wanted my female, dear friend down there to be healthy, but my ultra-deep, male voice transformed everything into an uncomfortable phone conversation – confusion about my gender. Far away from being insulted, I was actually glad that she showed her disorientation in our dialogue. I never thought that this masculine polished, deep tone coming from my stomach, being transmitted through my mouth could be my own defense mechanism against the enemies. My own complaining tool. A voice fighting the whole army – the voice winning the war. I must admit, I was bitter and partially heartbroken that I could not be a princess of my father’s kingdom, neither could I be the most wanted girly girl in my classroom. All my honeyed and nectarous power was visible much later after puberty tore down the confused teenager.
The voice became both an important and powerful tool of mine over the years. There is so much to tell. So much to complain about. Screaming in the holes of the system, spitting on their streets, and yelling whenever I feel like it. My voice is my medium. My voice is my capital. My masculine persona was born within it.
Let’s talk about boys. Voice of the boys. Boys for the voice. Voicing the boys. The ones that I love, the ones that abandon me, scared me, the ones that empowered me, satisfied me, treated me as an object, terrified me, loved me, protected me, and let me be the version of Nadja I am, while writing this.
I will tell you about the act of loudness after I tell you the ”Mustard bastard”.
My fingers in your hair, he said.
My hair was tied up in a high ponytail so that it would not fall into miniature portions of so-called canapes. I would cut the bread into slightly larger croutons. I would cover a slice of bread very precisely with yellow, freshly produced mustard. The knife I used was the same one used for butter with a carved brand on the bottom of the handle.
He said: I would like to tie your hands up around the radiator and feed you. I will grab your hair and pull it until you start crying. I will spread it all over your body.
My favorite color has always been yellow. My grandmother bought me a yellowish backpack for the first day of school. She said that I look like the sun and that the whole world rotates around me.
He would put my yellow backpack on the floor and take my clothes off – to explore the sun’s rays. My skin is cowered while my 15 old body is shivering. When he finished splashing mustard over my belly I would cry from the pain, but he would take me in his lap calling me his little sun. The pain would pass soon.
Bon Appetit! My mother prefers eating hot dogs without mustard while I eat them with.
I can’t tell why
but I love yellow
I can’t really know
Is this taste mellow
if you plant it, it will surely grow is this taste bitter
or is it just the snow?
he talks about my body
to inhabit it,
have a sip capture it matter it body skip imagine it.
He likes my mustard, Bon Appetitt.
THE ACT OF LOUDNESS
These so-called mustard bastard made my voice silent many, many times. This phenomenon is called the loss of voice and it is a real psychological disorder. Indeed.
A girl from Yeman was born from rape, believing that rape is the only thing she deserves. An older man from the park was touching his genitals 2 meters from my 17 years old presence. Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. Two middle-aged men were jerking off in front of me on the bus 706 in Belgrade, in the middle of the day. In Nicaragua, between 1998 and 2008, police recorded 14,377 cases of sexual assaults, with more than two-thirds of reports involving girls under the age of 17. A 50 years old man told me that he will tie my hands around the radiator in the supermarket, while I was selling the mustard. Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
The loss of voice is an experience when a person has something she or he feels is important to say but does not say it. Often this refusal to speak one’s mind is linked to feelings of inadequacy, fear of rejection, or fear of humiliation. Once adolescence is in full force, this inner, authentic voice is rarely shared with anyone, except for a few people whom girls trust. Outside of these close and trusting interactions, girls use an “acceptable” voice – one that expresses what they assume others expect them to think and feel.
Girls must use all the masculinity. Girls must scream stronger, dig deeper and spit harder.
I dig, dig, dig
I am a juicy fig.
Take me, try me, do not jig
I smell like a bloody rose,
Look at me!
I dig, dig, dig
and it grows.
Should I be loud?
digfor the crowd.
I dig here, I dig now. You are the one that is endowed.