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SAY What?

Two parts cultural commentary, one part personal ranting.
Serve with a side of political debate.
May contain sarcasm.

Perdiendo El Norde: Worst Film of the Year?
13 April 2015

Warning: contains spoilers (but it’s not really worth watching anyway)


I had high expectations for this film; a comedy telling the gritty reality of Spanish immigrants working in low-paid jobs abroad. Well, that’s what the advert had me believe.


 It started well. Two unemployed, slightly pretentious Spaniards with 6 degrees between them, leave the motherland in search of employment in Berlin. The first twenty minutes of this film are laugh-aloud funny. But maybe just for me. They hit the nail on the head with the Spanish stereotype; one of the lead characters assumes that because he has two Batchelor’s degrees and a Master’s that he’s just going to walk into a job. A typical sufferer of ‘titulitis’ – a disease rampant in modern-day Spain in which the patient is obsessed with certificates, extremely qualified on paper, but has no experience or transferable skills of any kind. Mr Titilitis just assumes that because he has lots of degrees he’ll get a high-flying job, despite not speaking the local language and turning up ten minutes late to an interview.


I thought that the writers really were taking a good hard-look at how Spanish people are viewed from outside, an ironic, refreshing ‘take the piss’ out of themselves approach that Spanish cinema desperately needs.


Alas, this was not to be the case. You might as well turn the film off after this scene because I guarantee you’ve seen the rest of the film before elsewhere. It’s like the screenwriters just couldn’t be bothered to think any more, and so decided to rely on all of the tired clichés of early 2000 Hollywood rom-coms.

Yes, this turns into a rom-com. A vomit-inducing, unrealistic pile of rom-com garbage.

Mr Titulitis leaves his very beautiful, very nice girlfriend of five years back in Spain to move to Berlin, where he starts to have feelings towards another Spanish girl who is equally as beautiful, but not as nice, and a little mentally unstable.


So of course, rather than focusing on the harsh realities faced by Spanish immigrants abroad (getting to grips with a new language, dealing with culture shock and realising that their three Spanish degrees are not worth one German one) the story takes the most obvious turn. He starts dating the new, not-as-nice Spanish girl, and then surprise, surprise the long-term girlfriend pops over for a visit. Oh no! Whatever will happen next?


You can guess it. It all ends up with new, not-as-nice Spanish girl being devastated, him moving back to Spain after less than two months in Berlin, and soon enough we find ourselves at his wedding. But of course, on the day of his wedding he suddenly decides that he doesn’t want to marry his long-term, very beautiful, very nice girlfriend of five years (whose dad has also just very kindly given him a job). Instead he wants to move back to Berlin and find the new, not-ao-nice girl who he’s known for less than two months and be with her instead. When it comes to saying ‘I do’, he says ‘I don’t’ and legs it. Now, where have I seen that before?


Back in Berlin, new, not-as-nice girl seems to have miraculously forgotten that he two-timed her and was a complete twat and there’s a lovely kissing scene in front of a beautiful backdrop and they live happily ever after (after having known each other for less than 2 months). Roll credits.


Now, I’m not against rom-coms. I just like them to tell me a story I haven’t already seen. And I like them to be romantic. Leaving a beautiful girl at the altar to go and be with another beautiful girl is NOT romantic. It’s being an indecisive, spoiled manchild. It’s also completely unrealistic and naive. 


So final thoughts on Perdiendo el Norte? Save yourself the 8 euros and rent Notting Hill instead.



Like 0        Published at 15:08   Comments (0)

Just when I thought my Spanish was getting good, I go and say THAT
26 November 2014

My Spanish is good. I'm sort of half way between C1 and C2 level. I'm proficient enough that I can work as a translator but not fluent enough that people confuse me for actually being Spanish. But I'm working hard on that. And I thought I was getting good at it. Until this happened.

I do Capoeira in gym about a 10 minutes cycle from my house. It's usually a pretty pleasant cycle but this day I hadn't noticed the gale force winds as I left the house. By the time I arrived, the sweat was pouring off me, my legs were jellified and my heart was racing. I was gulping down water like there was no tomorrow.

Within a minute of arriving the instructor said:

"Bueno chicos, a calentar" (Right guys, let's warm up)

My response? My head said "I'm already warmed up". My mouth said "ya estoy muy caliente" (I'm already really horny)

This wouldn't be so bad if last week, when we were told to run laps around the sports hall, I hadn't complained and told everyone "odio correrme". Correr means 'to run'. Corrrerse means to orgasm. 

As you can imagine... I'm starting to get a bit of a reputation at the gym... 

What mistakes have you guys made in Spanish?

Like 2        Published at 10:56   Comments (2)

Why I've Been Negative About Spain- A Personal Story
21 October 2014

Last week I wrote an article called “5 facts that will completely destroy your opinion of Spain”. The title was purposely sensationalist; I’ve been reading BuzzFeed long enough to know that unless you have a provocative title, you just don’t get the clicks. I could very easily have written “5 facts that show you some negative things about Spain that you might not be aware of” but that wouldn’t have pushed up the readership by half as much.


The article was never intended to make people hate Spain, but rather to point out some uncomfortable truths about a country which is so often portrayed as nothing more than sun, sand and sangria.


I posted links to this article on Facebook and got two extremely different reactions. From people living in Spain: “yeah, that sounds about right- this just confirmed what I already know” and from travel bloggers: “How on earth could you write something like that! How could you ever be so negative about Spain?”


I was accused of being a liar and “letting Scousers everywhere down” (God knows what my hometown has to do with anything). I was told that I had “no right” to be so negative and biased.


I then had a series of people trying to prove that I was just plain wrong, especially regarding the fact that Spain is the second poorest country in the EU. People sent me rants of their personal experiences "disproving" this (no statistics provided) and several people sent me links to lists of “European Countries by GDP” on Wikipedia to show me that I’d obviously got it wrong because “look, look Kosovo is much poorer than Spain!” By this time, I’d lost faith in travel bloggers altogether and was getting sick of explaining that a low GDP does not equal poverty.


But what I found most surprising in all of this, apart from the people who can’t seem to understand that Europe and the European Union are not the same thing (Kosovo IS poorer than Spain, but it's not in the EU; this does NOT disprove my research), was the general anger that the article produced. Real anger. How could I ever write something so negative about a country? Maybe I broke some sort of unknown blogging law. I don’t know. But as a resident of Spain (I have the 72 documents to prove it) and as a person who, you know, has freedom of speech, I do, actually, have the right to write negative things about Spain. Especially when they’re all verified facts backed up by academic sources such as OECD reports.


But the question remained; why would I write such a list of negative things about Spain? Well, simply, it’s because I live here, and the negatives affect me much more than the positives. Yes Spain has better weather and nice food and friendly people. But what affects me most is the political, economic and social reality around me.


Recently I, and many people I know have had our salaries cut. Not just stagnated and not increased in line with inflation. Cut. This happens every day to good, honest people who work hard. I see employees’ rights disappearing with every new bill passed through parliament whilst the bankers and politicians get richer and more corrupt. (Just look at what's happening with the the Black Card thing at Caixa Madrid right now). 


Then there's the bike lane thing. In the past month bike lanes have been erased and innocent people fined in order to make a quick profit for the council (see previous post about a three-year-old on a tricycle being fined). Now that I’m forced to cycle in the road behind buses I no longer have the wind in my face, but rather exhaust fumes. Cycling, which used to be a simple pleasure for me, is now not only dangerous (having a bendy bus just pull out in front of you when you're cycling at full speed is terrifying) but damaging my health (if you think I’m being melodramatic try cycling directly behind a bus- it’s really not pleasant to breathe in those toxins).


The negatives affect me more than the positives because I’m an immigrant not an expat. Because I live in Zaragoza and not in Fuengarola. Because I’m politically aware and I’m the type of person who writes to my MP and reads OECD reports for fun. Because I can’t stand social or political apathy.


Many of the Travel Bloggers told me that Spain is one of their favourite countries and that I have no right to be so negative about it. But to them I say, walk a mile in my shoes, stop travelling Spain and live it. Live in a barrio with Gypsies. Work on a daily basis with university graduates who can’t construct a logical argument.  Walk along streets where healthy thirty year olds are holding cardboard signs saying that they are looking for work, can’t find it, and have no other option but to beg on the street to feed their family (there’s no such thing as Job Seekers Allowance here). Watch as a population sits idly by as it is fucked over by its government. Then tell me I can’t say negative things about my adopted country.


But my favourite comment was “if you’re not happy in Spain, just leave”. I had this a few times and it’s actually laughable how naïve such a comment is.


Not all of these apply to me, but leaving a country is never an easy decision to make. What happens if you’re in a serious relationship and one partner wants to move abroad and the other doesn’t? What happens if you have financial security in a country and wouldn’t be guaranteed this if you moved? Would you risk leaving everything behind; your career, your promotional prospects and your guaranteed income on a gamble that you might get a job elsewhere? What happens when you don’t speak the language well? When your qualifications won’t be recognised in another country?


Choosing where to live is never so black and white. It’s not an easy decision to make. And it’s not one I’ve taken lightly. I’m in my mid-twenties and, looking towards the long term, I have asked myself: is Spain the country where I’d like to live forever? Is this the best country for my career? Would I like to raise a family here? I’ve thought long and hard about it and the answer is no.


But I can’t just pack up my bags and leave on the next flight home. I’m not a traveller. I’m a resident. I’m a real life adult with responsibilities.


So I deleted the link from the Travel Bloggers group. I’ve learnt my lesson. There are certain people who only want to read about how great countries are. There are people who will get really angry and defensive when you show them statistics from a reliable source that go against their own preconceptions. There are people who think they have the right to tell others "to go home".


No one has the right to tell me “to go home”. Especially people who don’t know me. And especially, especially those who think that Europe and the European Union are the same thing.

Like 4        Published at 11:49   Comments (5)

5 Facts That Will Completely Destroy Your Opinion of Spain
14 October 2014

1) 1 in 5 People in Spain Live in Poverty


Spain has a poverty rate of 20.4% and this rises to 26.7% for under 16s. That's one in five people, but a quarter of all children that live in poverty


The Spanish coastline may be lined with 4 and 5* beachfront hotels but a stone's throw inland many families are struggling to make ends meet. Spain has the second highest poverty rate in Europe, only after Romania. There are less people living below the poverty line in Bulgaria, Estonia and Croatia. 


Poverty as defined by INE (the Spanish Institute of Statistics- Instituto Nacional de Estadística), means that the family does not have a stable or sufficient enough income to, for example, heat their house in winter, to run a car or to use the washing machine. It also means they are unable to buy the food they want to eat (e.g. meat or fish may be too expensive), they're unable to save any money and would be crippled if they had to pay an unexpected cost.




2) The average Spanish graduate has the skill set of a 15 year old Japanese child.


A recent OECD study has shown that Spanish university graduates perform worse in basic mathematics and language comprehension tests than any other country (in the OECD). Their levels are so low that final year high schools students from countries including the Czech Republic, Australia and Slovakia beat them. According to this report, Spanish university graduates are outsmarted academically by 15 year olds in Japan. 


The General Secretary of the OECD has described the level of  education in Spain as "alarming".



Te Interesa / La Sexta / Photo Credit: CNN


3) Yet Spain is the most  "over qualified" nation in the EU


Spain produces more graduates than any other EU country; 33.6% of the adult Spanish population (aged between 25-65) have at least a Batchelor's degree compared with the 28.6% EU average. Since the economic recession, many people believe that going to university is the only way to guarantee employment in a time of economic hardship. 


For this reason Spain also has the highest level of "over-qualified workers" in the EU; 63.4% of university graduates are working a post that doesn't require their degree and one in three are working a post that requires no formal academic qualification at all (e.g. waitering or cleaning hotels). 


The irony is stark; Spain produces a surplus of graduates with a below-par education, yet most Spaniards are working in jobs that don't require a degree at all. 



Te Interesa / Photo Credit: Fortune


4) Spaniards work harder than Germans


A EuroStat report has shown that Spanish workers work more hours than most other EU countries (only Czechs and Greeks work more hours than Spaniards). On average a Spanish worker works 1,690 hours and gets 22 days holiday per year. In comparison Germans work 1,413 hours and have 30 days holiday a year. 


So on average Spaniards work a whole 277 hours more a year than Germans. That's 5.3 hours a week more. 


The kicker is that, despite this, Germans earn more and their economy isn't in crisis. How so? Spanish workers are just less productive. Eurostat have devised a way of measuring worker productivity which is too complicated for me to understand but the conclusion is this; productivity in Spain: 107.1, productivity in Germany 124.8. So despite working less hours per week and having more days off, Germans are still more productive. They just get more done in a shorter period of time. 


Many economists put this down to the Spanish working day; usually people start work later (shops usually open at 10am for example), then workers take two hours off for lunch and then go back to work at 4 or 5 in the afternoon; the time when many Germans are finishing work. The banks are generally only open 9am-2pm Monday-Friday which means that if businesses need to contact the bank they'll often have to wait till the following working day.


So the preconception that Spaniards are lazy is completely wrong. They're not. They're just unproductive. 




5) Over Half a Million People Left Spain Last Year


             Emigration in Spain 2008-2013

Having read the first four points, number five probably shouldn't be that surprising. In 2013 547,890 people emigrated from Spain, giving Spain a net migration of -256,849. 


85% of the people leaving are people who moved to Spain during the economic boom of the early 2000s and are now returning to their home countries. Top of the list of people returning home are Romanians, Moroccans and Latin Americans; showing that many families feel the situation is better in their own countries than in Spain. Better in Romania and Morocco than Spain.


Interestingly only 69,965 Brits returned home between 2008-2013 (out of an estimated 1 million Brits living in Spain). This is possibly because the large majority of Brits living in Spain are retired, live in designated "expat zones" and are unaffected by the points listed above.


As for me, I will be joining the 69,965 Brits who've moved back to the UK very, very soon. 



Expansion  Huffington Post / Photo Credit: Huffington Post.

Like 0        Published at 18:00   Comments (3)

Did Zaragoza Really Just Fine a 4 Year Old?
03 October 2014

It sounds like the headline on one of those satire websites. You know the ones like The Onion which posts fake news because that's their idea of funny. But knowing the way Zaragoza works, it wouldn't surprise me if it were true.

Last week Zaragoza changed their highway code overnight. Cyclists used to be welcome on pavements that are more than 4 metres wide. Now they are banned from every pavement in the city. They're also banned from pedestrianised areas in the city centre and from bike lanes which are drawn onto the pavement. Now all cyclists must travel on the roads with the cars and buses and if any cyclist is seen on the pavement they're being fined.

The police are handing fines out left, right and centre. There are no signs in the streets about the changes and the police are just lurking around corners waiting for unknowing cyclists to ride past so that they can stop and charge them 50 euros. The general consensus, regardless of how you feel about cyclists, is that the main motivation of the rapid changes, the lack of publicity and new signs, is to fine as many people as possible to make a quick profit for the Ayuntamiento. 

Yesterday a story came out that a four year old on a tricycle was fined, or at least his parents were, because he was cycling along on the pavement instead of the road.

I'm not 100% sure if this is a true story, a rumour, or propaganda for the pro-bike anti-ayuntamiento movement.

No local or national newspaper has covered the story, only several blogs and independent websites. The child in question is not named and neither are his parents. There’s no photo. I'm sure if this were true, the parents would be outraged and would be giving interviews.

All the stories and tweets lead back to this one website; El Ventano ( which is a blogspot blog run by someone who doesn't give their real name, only a pseudonym; Qaesar. This is definitely not a satire website, but to what extent it can be trusted as a reliable news source is debatable.

The only thing that gives the story some credibility is that one of the major political parties in Spain, Podemos, have tweeted about it. Of course, they're notoriously left-wing and anti-big-government, but I’d like to think that the third biggest political party in Spain would do their research before propagating false stories. But this is Spain. Anything can happen.

I’m on the fence about whether or not this actually happened. I've seen an eleven year old stopped and fined because his tram pass had expired. Maybe they would fine a 4 year old. Only time will tell. If the main news channels and papers pick up the story and if the parents come forward then we’ll know for sure. Until then I leave you with my conclusion:

1. If it is true, this just goes to show how bad the situation has got in Zaragoza. That the city council is so twisted and evil and (probably) bankrupt that they’re willing to fine a four year old child.

2. If it’s not true, this just goes to show how bad the situation has got online. That random people, with no credibility are producing lies and spreading them rapidly for their own personal gain. That people are so gullible that they’ll take an anonymous blogger’s word for something. That they’ll then repost it and well… this:


I don’t know which conclusion I fear the most.


Post Update 4/10/14

I've just verified the story as true. Except it wasn't a four year old, but a THREE YEAR OLD. His mother is a friend of a friend and was fined 150 euros for letting him use a tricycle on the pavement. 

In this case conclusion 1) is correct 
as well, I'm going to add conclusion 3) Zaragoza has some really slow news reporters, and/or the local newspapers are in the ayuntamiento's pockets and are refusing to publish a story like this.

Where's the Daily Mail when you need it!

Like 0        Published at 13:38   Comments (1)

12 Spanish Words That Have Absolutely No English Equivalent.
01 October 2014

When I started learning languages I honestly thought that it would be a case of learning the foreign word for all the English words. It never occurred to me that they'd put their words in a different order. Or that they'd use different tenses. Or that some words just wouldn't exist. I was so downhearted when I found out it wasn't as easy as x = y that I wanted to just give up there and then. 13 years later this is the thing I most enjoy about languages. Discovering words and phrases that just don't exist in other languages. Words that you can't translate literally. 

Here are some of my favourite Spanish words which don't have a direct translation in English:

1) La Edad de Pavo

Literal translation: the age of the turkey

This is the awkward age (about 12-14) when kids turn into nightmares. When they start disrespecting their parents, thinking they know it all and start showing off to their friends. I assume the analogy comes from turkeys strutting their stuff with their tail feathers all displayed. 

2) Agujetas

The achy pain you get the day after you do a lot of exercise. 

3) Friolero

Someone who is always cold.

4) Un Vinagre

Literal translation: a vinegar. 

Meaning: A man of around 50-60 who has let himself go. He gets disgustingly drunk and pervs on young women. In general they smell bad, are grumpy and hang around a bar all day drinking and smoking. The idea is like when wine turns into vinegar; the man has turned sour. 

5) Tener ganas

It's 'want to' / 'look forward to' / 'can't wait to' all at the same time. 

6) Concuñado/a

The partner of your brother-in-law or of your sister-in-law. Or the partner of your husband's/wife's brother or sister-in-law. 

In English it's brother-in-law just the same. In Spanish there's a clear difference between the brother-in-law and the guy who's married to the sister-in-law.

7) Consuegro/a

The relationship between the two sets of parents when people get married.

8) Desvelado/a

To not be sleeping when you should be sleeping because something is keeping you up (like the neighbours having a party).

9) Tocayo/a

A person who has the same name as you. It can mean namesake (a person you were named after), and in that case there is an English equivalent. But it also means when you randomly meet someone and you have have the same name. There's no word for that in English.

10) Botellón

An event when a large group of people, mainly teenagers or students, get extremely drunk in a public place. 

11) Entrecejo

The space between your eyebrows.

12) Pringado

The unlucky person who has to do the work no one else wants to do. Usually because he's new or easy to manipulate.

Like 2        Published at 15:01   Comments (15)

Why Spain Needs a Good Riot
29 September 2014

A couple of months ago a friend asked me how things were going in Spain. I don't remember what I said exactly, but my conclusion was this; "everything is just so shit and unfair. What Spain needs is a good riot"It was a bit of a weird, dramatic conclusion but what happened this week has only confirmed my belief. 

I live in Zaragoza and cycle to and from work. Over night, with no warning, the city council have decided that cyclists are now not welcome in several roads in the city centre and there will be a fine if you cycle here. One of these roads (Paseo Independencia) actually has a cycle lane on it
This came into effect on Sunday at midnight and on Monday morning there were police giving out fines. There was no warning, no public consultation (that I know of) and there are no physical signs in the street saying that the cycle lane is now out of use or that bikes cannot enter these streets.
According to one newspaper the council is giving a 15 days "transition period" regarding the changes yet the same article says that 20 people have already been fined. The general consensus is that this is a quick way for the council to make money. That it's terrible and unfair and illogical. But whenever I bring up the issue the response is "yeah this is stupid, but this is Spain, what do you expect?".
I expect people not to just roll over and accept it. In the UK people would start an online campaign through something like and they'd protest, they'd get the local newspaper on board, they'd demand to be listened to. People in the UK start petitions about a lollipop man outside a school, imagine what they'd do if the government just changed the Highway Code overnight and started fining people for it.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Spanish government is introducing worrying changes in every sector which will only push the country further into recession and into the past. They're cutting vital health services. They've frozen the minimum wage. They're proposing increasing the number of children per class by 20%. This means 36 students for 1 teacher. 
My boyfriend said to me "In Spain things either happen very quickly or very slowly. The things that go quickly are things that make them money like introducing fines and making cuts. The things that go slowly- well everything else"
And the sad thing about this is that it happens, and will continue to happen, because Spanish people are not prepared to do anything about it (this is where the riot comes in). The government is like a school bully. They make up their own rules, for their own gain, and then take the hard-working public's lunch money. 
The only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to themThis is why Spain needs a riot. They've tried organising peaceful protests but Spaniards couldn't organise a pissup in a brewery. 
There was a protest about the bike thing on Friday and I'd say a good 500 showed up (though only around 30 turned up on time- the rest flowed in when they felt like it). We all took our bikes and started cycling very slowly and peacefully down Paseo Independencia. It held up traffic and the bikes dominated the singe-laned traffic while the bike lane sat lonely and unused right next to us. The idea being to show how absurd it is to not use a perfectly good bike lane.

This would have been great. If it had lasted more than 40 minutes. The bikes just started to hold up traffic and then everyone just disappeared. It was almost like "right, the tram's started running late and the traffic's a bit backed up now. Job done. Let's go get a cerveza."

It's been three days since the protest and not one newspaper has written anything about it. So unless you were on that exact street at that exact time, you wouldn't even know it had happened. 

This is typically Spanish. The vast majority of people do nothing. The people who do try to do something, don't do it well. The media doesn't support it. Nothing changes. 
Of course this is a local issue which only affects certain people but even the national protests on very serious issues are not done well. Take the abortion law for example. Abortion has been available on request in Spain since 1985. Last year the government decided they want to ban abortion except in very specific cases where the mother's health is at risk or she was raped. To most people this is a step backwards. You can't criminalise a medical procedure that's been legalised for almost 30 years. But that's what the government wanted to do. 

There was a protest in January. This is how they did it:

Their campaign is called "el tren de la libertad", (the train of freedom). Now, if you were to walk past this protest what would you think they're protesting? Probably something to do with trains. The word abortion doesn't feature on their banners at all. 

Spanish people are just very bad at protesting. How are you supposed to convince people to support your campaign to keep abortion legal with a purple choo choo train?


{note; the government has just announced this week that they're putting the abortion law on the back burner until after the general election. Not because of the protests, but because they don't wish to debate such a sensitive issue so close to the elections when this could lose them votes.} 

Choo Choo trains aside, most citizens sit back, shrug their shoulders and let a couple of hippies organise a badly designed, half-hearted demonstration. This is why Spain needs a good riot. A good old-fashioned national strike. A full-blown something that'll force the media and the government to sit up and listen. 

It's easy to ignore a group of people cycling up and down a road for 40 minutes one afternoon. It's easy to not take the pretty purple train seriously. Riots. Strikes. Spaniards need to do something that those in power would take seriously. 

If regular citizens are unwilling to unite, stand up for themselves and make a bit of noise then the bully will continue to take their lunch money. Their cycle lanes. Their regular sized classes. Their abortions. The government will just keep taking and taking, cutting and cutting and fining and fining.Then what will be left? 

Like 0        Published at 17:25   Comments (4)

How the internet destroyed Feminism and why Emma Watson might just save us all.
26 September 2014

Feminism was something that was taught to me in my first year at University. It was an hour long lecture, compulsory for anyone studying anything vaguely politics-y. 

We learnt was that there were two types of Feminist
1) people who believe that women are naturally superior to men and 
2) people who believe that the sexes should be treated equally. 
Everyone in the class agreed that the second kind of feminism was a good idea. If anyone did disagree, they didn't dare say so aloud. We also read pretty much everything by Mary Walstonecraft and were asked if it is possible to justify paying men more for doing exactly the same work as a woman. No one could. 
And that was the end of it. Feminism number 2. Let's do that. Next lecture: Environmentalism. 
To me its always just been that simple. Until the internet decided that Feminism was the new black. There are millions upon millions of articles, videos and social media posts about Feminism, but not just Feminism; post-structural-feminism, neo-feminism, transfeminism, antifeminism, and whatever else becomes the cool, new prefix. There is an argument and a counterargument to everything. For every article there are thousands of angry commenters saying that no, no no, the author's got it all wrong
I've read too many articles explaining why Beyoncé is a great feminist. Why she's a terrible feminist. Why Nicki Minaj is a better feminist than Beyoncé. But that's a pointless debate. It doesn't matter. No one should be a better feminist than anyone else.
The internet is taking us in circles. We've started fighting each other instead of fighting for equality. Words such as "slut-shaming", "male privilege" "sexual harassment" are thrown around with little care. For every logical point discussed there is at least one idiot in the world who will say "yeah I don't care what this woman has to say, she's an ugly cow" or "you don't get a say about feminism because you're a man". 

Every article or you tube video produces an endless cycle of unproductive, angry and ill-informed debate. Before people became so bold and troll-y on the internet everyone agreed that equality was, in general, a good thing. But somewhere along the line feminism has become a dirty word.

So people have stopped identifying as feminist. It causes too too many problems. It induces eye-rolling and trolling and threats. In some cases the word has been hijacked to mean something completely different or something so extreme that people are scared to be associated with it.
No one should be afraid to say they're a FeministFeminism is a simple concept. It's a good concept. It is, pure and simple, the quest for economic, political and social equality. 
Emma Watson gave a brilliant speech about this at the UN. She said that feminism is a fight for everyone, that both men and women are stereotyped and discriminated against and that this must stop. Her words are infallible. Her argument water-tight. 
But for the mere fact that she's a woman, some lowlife scum have decided that they need to "teach her a lesson" and "put her in her place" by releasing nude photos of her. 
Before the internet, this could never have happened. If anyone had any problem with Emma Watson's speech they'd have to write to her personally or write to a newspaper. And like hell would a newspaper publish anything to "get back at" Emma Watson for doing her job as a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Nowadays anyone can publish any number of horrendous things online and they can whip around the world in seconds, shared on social media. The internet has made people bold. It rewards the evil.
But how do we stop it? How can we go back to the days of Politics 101 when no one dared argue publicly against equality for fear of being shouted down as a sexist, misogynist, ignorant prick?  
This is how: we support Emma Watson and her HeforShe campaign. We don't let the bullies win. 
We take the feminism debate offline and into the boardroom. We take it into parliament. We take it onto the street.
We stop fighting behind computers and we start demanding equal pay, we start blaming rape on rapers not on alcohol or outfits, we start breaking down gender stereotypes and we start treating everyone withthe respect they deserve.
It won't be easy, but we cannot let the internet destroy equality. We cannot let the evil trolling bullies and the feminist hijackers win. 
I am a feminist. I support HeforShe. I hope you do to

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Spanish History 103: From Dictator to Democracy to Corruption (the fun cliffnotes version)
25 September 2014

This post follows on from History 101 and History 102



The Death of a Dictator

Franco's health started deteriorating in the early 1970s. He was getting on a bit and he knew it so he started to dish out his power. He named Juan Carlos de Borbon as his heir-apparent. This was a bit of a surprise as Juan Carlos's dad, Don Juan, had a superior right to the throne. But Franco, being a dictator, wasn't one for following 'rights'. Juan Carlos had been raised and educated under strict guidance from Franco and Franco believed that he would continue ruling under the same mantra after he'd gone. That he'd continue the dictatorship. 


Franco had a long-running battle with Parkinson's and fell extremely ill in 1974, handing over the role of Acting Head of State to Juan Carlos. When he died on the 20th November 1975, the now King Juan Carlos decided to have Franco buried in the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). Franco had had it designed and built to honour those who had fallen during the Civil War.




Luckily for Spain, Juan Carlos decided not to continue ruling as Franco had done, but instead steered the country towards democracy.


The transition to democracy wasn't easy for Juan Carlos. Many of Franco's supporters expected him to continue ruling as Franco did, so trying to make Spain a democracy was a tricky task. One which he pulled off spectacularly;


It was a long and complicated process as he had to work within the very tight framework of laws set by Franco. A new political regime couldn't just be created; Franco's dictatorship regime had to be dissolved through the Francoist government itself.

This came about in the form of the Ley para la Reforma Política (Law for Political Reform) and a referendum in 1977. 97.4% of the population agreed to the bill. This legalised political parties (previously banned under Franco) and the democratic election of parliament.

Of course, there were traditional Francoists who weren't at all happy with the democratic direction that Juan Carlos was taking the country in, and there was an attempted coup in 1981. But Juan Carlos was extremely charismatic, and very popular with the people; he gave a speech on television denouncing the coup and just like that the coupers surrendered the next day. The Basque terrorists also eased up considerably when the ban on regional languages was lifted.


Spain joined NATO in 1982 the EU (then the EEC) in 1986 and became an economic powerhouse. Spain invested heavily in construction and tourism and the economy boomed. Juan Carlos was therefore extremely popular with the public, not only had he helped transorm Spain from a dictatorship into a functioning democracy, Spain was riding high. One particular highlight was in 2007 when he told the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, to shut the hell up. It was brilliant, everyone loved him for it, so much that it was even made into a ringtone. He was the people's king. 



Things started turning sour for Juan Carlos with the economic crisis, when he started hunting and killing endangered elephants on African safari (while the rest of the country was in economic crisis) and when his family became involved in heated corruption scandals.


He tearfully stepped down as king last month. A sad ending to what should have been a legendary story. 

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Spanish History 102: Francoist Spain (the fun cliffnotes version)
24 September 2014

This post follows on from History 101:


Francoist Spain

Francoist Spain lasted from the end of the Civil War (1939) until his death in 1975. This was a pretty long dictatorship and I can't really do it justice in a blog post. So here is a cliff-notes version of the most important facts.


Politics under Franco

Because Franco was mates with Hitler and Mussolini, all other countries hated him. Spain wasn't allowed to join the UN or the EU (or the EEC as it was back then) and everyone except Portugal and Argentina imposed an embargo on Spain. This, added to the fact Spain had just undergone a Civil War (half a million dead, entire towns destroyed, disease and starvation rife), meant that Spain was in pretty bad shape, and stayed that way for a long time. There was rationing until 1952, 14 years after the war had finished.


The Re-Christianization of Spain

Franco was a devout Catholic and made sure that everyone else in Spain was too. All the advances made towards women's rights and freedom of speech were reversed, in keeping with traditional Catholic theology; contraceptives, abortion and prostitution were made illegal, it was made pretty difficult for women to achieve virtually anything and it was illegal to be gay. Many gays were arrested and sent to special prisons called "galarías de invertidos" (meaning inverted, or reversed) where the "problem" would try to be "corrected".


To this day, Spain remains a very Catholic country, but has reversed most of the Francoist laws above. The anti-gay laws under Franco were overturned in 1979 and gay marriage was introduced in 2004; one of only 11 countries in the world to do so. Abortion is also now legal and available on request (during the first trimester) since 2010. It was available under restricted circumstances from 1985. Prostitution remains illegal, but is still practised.


Anti-Regionalism and Terrorism

The other main impact that Franco had on Spain was that he banned regional languages. He wanted to create a 'unified Spain'; he made Bullfighting and Flamenco the national sports (because they're 'proper Spanish') and Castellano (what we call Spanish) the national language. This was the language spoken in Madrid and in the south, but other parts of Spain had their own languages. Many people didn't even speak Castellano Spanish. So it was a pretty big deal. All schools, official documents and media suddenly had to change the language they were in. A joke was commonly made that the only place that Catalan could be seen was on the manhole covers leading to the sewers. Everything else, including roadsigns were remade in Castellano. Regional languages were still spoken at home, but in public everything was in proper Spanish. 


The Basques in particular were extremely hostile to this. Their language is unlike any other Spanish language and they're pretty proud of their Basque heritage. In 1958 a terrorist group called ETA formed, opposing Franco and his anti-Basque laws and campaigning for the independence of the Basque Country from Spain.


Their tactic was to kidnap rich people, hold them for ransom, then, with this money, buy arms and bombs. Most notably they kidnapped Enrique Iglesias's grandad in 1981. They also killed Luis Carerro Blanco, who was Franco's right hand man, back in 1973.


According to Wikipedia they've been responsible for 829 killings in total and about 700 of it's members have been caught and imprisoned. When Franco died in 1975 and the ban on regional languages was lifted, the terrorism eased up. There's been a number of ceasefires since, and ETA officially ceased armed activity last year for good. But they have said this before.


In Spanish History 103 (the final post about Franco) I'll talk about his death and how Spain became a nice democratic and liberal country again. Or did it?

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