Archive for the 'Protest!' Category

Scum of the Earth!

I know I haven’t been on the blogosphere for a few days, and that’s been due to a combination of lack of inspiration and feeling like I’m running to stand still. My life hasn’t been a great source of wonder and amazement over this week and I didn’t feel any great urge to communicate. So far, so good.

 

And then I went out last night to the Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel and had a lovely old time with my friends. I walked to Aldgate East station and had just missed the last blimmin’ train. So got nightbus. Got off nightbus. Walked towards my home. All I was thinking is ‘Aaaaaah nearly home, nearly home’. I turn a corner, 30 seconds away from my front door and then BAM!

 

A guy wrestles me to the ground and grapples for my handbag. My blood boils. I resist, start kicking and screaming, trying to get him off me. I get punched and kicked in the stomach. He takes the bag. I run after him, screaming GIVE ME MY FUCKING BAG YOU FAAAAAAAAKIN CAAAAAAAAAAAANT. He jumps into a waiting car in the middle of the road. Speeds off with my precious belongings.

 

I run home with cuts and bruises and anger and tears. Absolutely livid.

 

And what for? Nothing. I had a fiver. My bankcards, cancelled. My mobile phone, blocked.

But to me this will cost a fortune: My make up bag’s contents were probably worth in excess of £100, my keys cost £20 to replace, I might need a new front door lock, a new handbag, a new purse, a new phone.  My credit cards won’t arrive until after Xmas so I can’t buy presents.

 

And I wonder how he feels now that he realises he just beat up a girl for her fucking lipstick?

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When I grow up I want to be…

 

Apologies for my absence. Have been devoting all my energies into keeping my head slightly above water, but I shall make my return soon, by the honour of Greyskull.

The Chicken and the Eiger

So Gordon Brown decided to pull out a particularly shiny trumpcard this week. A vain attempt to rescue his ever waning popularity while the rest of us have to re-use our teabags in order to pay the gas bill? Clearly. But I wanted to hug him when I heard that he plans to introduce State funded childcare for two-year-olds.

 

Evidently, the likelihood of this measure being implemented before my own two-year-old son is in school is nil, but as a young mother desperate to return to work I have to applaud our rotund, unpopular Prime Minister.

 

I returned to University last year to finish my degree, when my son was fourteen months old. I could only afford(‘afford’ here is an euphemism for ‘I nearly died’) to put him in childcare for the days when I was actually in lectures, which meant that the time I had to read the sheer material required for a BA in English Language and Literature, as well as writing lengthy essays, was seriously compromised.

 

And now I find myself, at 25, with some office experience and a fresh degree in the bag, eager to grab a career by the horns and regain control of my life. Except for one *small* detail…

 

To send my son to my local nursery, where I feel confident that he will be cared for with genuine commitment and affection, will cost me a whopping GBP 938,00 per month, full time.

 

Now consider that I will be getting myself an entry level job in the media. I will NOT whore myself out for less than 20k, which limits the amount of positions somewhat. So, let’s say I’ll be earning approximately 1.2k a month after tax. After nursery fees, that leaves me TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY TWO POUNDS A MONTH TO PLAY WITH!!!!!!!!

 

YOU WOULD THINK THIS IS SOME SICK FUCKING JOKE, WOULDN’T YOU?

Add to the considerations that I, as well as working for a pittance, will be putting myself through the heartwrenching decision of letting someone else look after my son for 70% of his waking hours. Add travel and food and I am torturing myself and my family to be 100 pounds better off a month.

 

 

When I look at it like this, I just want to say ‘FUCK THAT!’, but I am actually going to do this, in the hope that one day I will earn a lot more. But is it any wonder why single mums around the country remain on benefits? Too bloody right. It makes me sick with anger to know that there are millions of women in the same position as I am today.

 

 I hope Mr. Brown can fantasize about what good it might do to our desperate, swooning economy to encourage us professional housegirlfriends and wives back into the workforce. Grrrrrrrrrrr!

Revisiting the Rua Ceara

When I went home to Rio de Janeiro this May to visit my family and friends, my mind was fizzing with a plan to visit the Vila Mimosa once more. I was hoping that I might be able to pay a few of the girls to answer a few questions, and had spent some time thinking about what type of question these should be. Something inside me made me want to steer clear of the glaringly obvious, and avoid asking questions such as ‘How many men do you see every day?’, ‘What’s the dirtiest thing anyone ever asked you to do?’ etc., because my strongest feeling after visiting back in 2004 was that the mechanical performance of the act of prostitution necessarily concealed the people underneath. I feel that by making that sort of enquiry I would just be adding to the car crash voyeurism surrounding anything marginal, whereas I would prefer to get to know more about the people. I am not sure that I ever arrived at the right calibre of questioning but I was more intent on asking things that were completely unrelated to ‘the profession’, such as ‘Who do you admire and why?’, ‘What is your favourite food?’, ‘If you had only one day to live, what would you do?’. It all might seem a bit naive but that is precisely the point.

 

But I knew that there was a lot I could unearth before even going to the Vila, just by asking (men) in general chit-chat. A friend of a friend had recently joined the motorcycling club ‘Abutres'(not dissimilar from the Hell’s Angels although I am sure if any serious biker reads this I will be in hot water!!!!) and was undergoing his initiation, something which seemed to involve submitting himself to enormous amounts of abuse from the other members until he was ‘promoted’ to the next stage of membership. He told me that the club’s meeting place was by the Vila and that very often they would pay girls to come to their parties and strip and some of the members would go ‘the extra mile’. He claims that he never saw a single woman he would pay ten Reais(around GPB 3.50) to have sex with in all the times he ever visited the Vila, but that his friends often related having seen attractive girls in there. He told me he heard that an old acquaintance of his had recently been diagnosed with HIV and that the word on the street was that he had contracted it in the Vila, but that he was convinced this could not be true as all the girls in there used condoms at all times. He said that you could often see the girls disposing of the ‘used goods’ and handing over little packets to incoming customers. Unfortunately I could not spend more time discussing it all with him, because I am certain that there were plenty of details which he would have ommitted in polite company. Like every man I have ever spoken to on the subject, he maintains that he has never and would never pay for sex in the Vila Mimosa, but that it was a fun place to visit and drink the night away(if you are a guy, that is, because all I ever heard about it is that ‘it is no place for a girl like you to be in’).

 

 

My disclosure of my plans to revisit the Vila was met with mixed reactions. My best friend, who accompanied me on the last visit, was as excited as I was, whereas most of the guys I mentioned it to were concerned, incredulous and discouraging. Others gave me the ‘thumbs up’ so long as I made sure I dressed plainly and was accompanied by a good group of tough-looking male friends. My own feelings about the trip kept oscillating between my aforementioned excitement and icy cold feet, but I went ahead with my arrangements anyway. On a Wednesday afternoon I dropped off my Boyf and baby at the airport, with plans of going out with some friends that evening. We were to start at the Vila Mimosa and then move on to Lapa and Baixo Santa Teresa. I hailed a taxi from departures to kill the rest of the day at Posto 9 on Ipanema Beach, when my friend called me and I tried to convince her to come with me. Our conversation got quite agitated, and then I hung up.

The cabby looked at me through the rearview mirror.

‘Are you from Sao Paulo?’

‘No, actually, I’m from Rio.’

‘You seem to lead a very busy life.’

‘I guess…’ (Hmmm… Where is he going with this?)

‘Doing anything fun tonight?’

‘Uhhh yeah, I’m going out with some friends, y’know?’

‘Oh really? Going anywhere nice?’ (Hmmm… I see where he’s going with this…)

‘Yeah, I’m going to Baixo Santa, and Lapa, and I might do a little detour by the Rua Ceara…’

 

It was obvious that he was dying to ask me about this.

He asked me what I wanted to do at the Vila, and I said I was revisiting with the intention of doing some research for writing, and then I asked him if he had any stories he could share about it.

‘That place is Hell on Earth’, he said. ‘To me there are two kinds of whore: The ‘puta da vida'(whore of life) and the ‘puta de sangue’ (whore of blood). The puta ‘da vida’ is a woman who is forced into prostitution because she needs the money to live. As a taxi driver I know many women like this, who sell their bodies in order to feed their children. The puta ‘de sangue’ is in the business mainly because she likes the sex. These two types tend to behave differently, although a puta ‘da vida’ might get hooked on the perversion of the job and become a puta ‘de sangue’. A puta ‘da vida’ might lead more of a double life, behaving one way in the night but going back home to her normality, whereas the puta ‘de sangue’ is what she is.’

Wow‘, I thought, ‘this dude is being pretty direct…

I asked him if he had any suggestions for my research, saying that I wanted to reveal a bit more about the place, seeing as it is contradictorily poised between common knowledge and absolute secrecy, and the enormity of it swamps any trace of individual trajectories. He said that just from spending one night there I would barely scratch the surface, and suggested that a better course of action would be to spend several nights there, try and see if any of the girls stood out in particular, and make my way in more slowly. He warned me that I should never ever go there without male company, as men in there would see me as much of a sex object as the girls, and that I should never take any valuables with me. I asked him about the hostility I felt from the girls when I walked there before, and he told me competition is fierce between them, and they would wonder what the hell a well-presented little middle-class girl like me was doing there, and that they would envy me and I had to tread carefully.

 

He proceeded to tell me that the Vila Mimosa is the penultimate rung of the ladder in the life of a Rio prostitute. It is the place where women go when they have ugly faces or their bodies are no longer up to scratch, when they would no longer be accepted in the more ‘upmarket’ brothels in pretty much any other area in town. He told me that the last rung of the ladder in terms of prostitution zones is the Central do Brasil (or Central Station, for those of you who may have watched Fernando Meirelles movie starring Fernanda Montenegro), where women go when they are completely ‘gone’. In his opinion, the Vila is an interesting place to visit and have a few drinks but no man in his right mind would go there to have sex, that the occasional attractive woman who ended up in there never stayed long, and that he had personally never seen one he would have paid for. In spite of this, he related many friendships and even love coming out of the relationships between the women and their clients.

 

I asked him whether it was true that none of the girls in the Vila were minors, and he laughed. He said that there are girls as young as 12 in the Vila, girls who grew up on the street or who fell on hard times in one way or another. He said the pimps kept the younger looking ones upstairs and charged more for them. Fortunately(can I even call it that in these circumstances?) he confirmed the universal use of condoms. He told me I should write a book about the Vila Mimosa just from stories I could amass from Rio taxi drivers, and I thought that was a really good idea. I might just do that.

Suddenly, we were driving through Leblon, and the conversation changed directions slightly.

‘You know, as a taxi driver and a bouncer in Copacabana night clubs, I know a lot of ‘women of the night’ and I can generally spot one from a big distance. When I saw you hail my taxi I thought you looked like a well-to-do rich girl, but when you opened your mouth to speak…’

 

Cheeky fucker.

 

He dropped me off at Posto 9 and I thanked him for the chat, which was truly interesting and has given me loads more ideas about how to go about furthering my research, and he also highlighted the risks involved in it. Unfortunately, that evening a torrential rainstorm flooded and gridlocked most of Rio and I never made it to the Rua Ceara, so this remains a work in progress. Nevertheless, my curiosity is spiked and I will continue to keep digging at this den of iniquity at the bowels of the city until some more of its secrets are revealed to me.

The Email That Cocked Me Off

Hi there,

Further to yesterday’s post on the Vila Mimosa, I found a website with some great photographs of the place.

I just thought I’d transcribe the email at the beginning of Hanspeter Schneider’s book ‘Vila Mimosa‘ , the one that really got under my skin. I shall add my own comments in brackets as I go along.

Here goes:

hanspeter,

that was TOTALLY the heaviest shoot

IN THE FUCKING PLANET…

when you shoot, baby

you bring true, hardcore reality out of all of us…

from now on

theres no wwwaayy i can ever fake the real thing

that is definitely one of the great shoot locations of the world.

and the fact that our booker is the local pimp

is cool…

Maciria says ‘it’s the most notorious prostitution area in the world’

i stopped taking her comment lightly immediately, baby.

certainly not your every day kind of girls heh??

 

It was like entering the Notting Hill carnival on a float, hopping off like some

superstar geezer…

and all the girls run to you in naked lanky leaps, gagging for a shag.

remember that lady with the booty??

she stuck her middle finger in her pussy and offered me little taster.

She raised her finger right up to my face and touched my chin..

she tried to blow me baby!

and i’ve still got nightmares.

or the time you had a copper badge flashed in your face and and AK47

elegantly put to your stomach.

that was the moment i saw my life in a true light…

Could a simple fashion shoot be any heavier???

a ply-board made warehouse, a long snaking passageway og dark connecting

porn bars… Flicking neon lights, used rubbers on the floor, loud samba music

and dancing naked girls everywhere…

UN-FUCKING-FORGETTABLE.

the Gisele lookalike doing something weird to her arse, pelvic thrusts and

dirty gestures coming from everywhere.

where else in the world do girls dress just in heels, legs spread, and sip wine??

these women are god-damn career girls.

up and down rickety bar stairs counting cash. too many drugs, too many guns, too much business

 

i remember  being in the van adjusting a g-string…

finding her days before in one of those dark grimy bars, butt naked, riding on

a bar table.

now styled up, flossing like a queen

She told me that she loved me, she lunged for my bollocks

like a raging oversexed predator…

 

the place made me so fucking nervous baby

I remember jumping out of the van for some air. you ran over and said

‘I just shot this 20 stone woman having an orgasm with a big wooden dildo!!’

you turned around, rushed back,

came back 10 minutes later with a Polaroid of 3 old women playing with each other.

I mean, they worked for free… all they wanted to do was to floss iceberg, no??

they loved the designer stuff

they loved the prestige, baby.

we transformed them into princesses that day HP.

they cued for you, waited patiently for their photo,

so fascinated by the glamour and flashy threads, everyone just wanted a slice

of flash. totally bizarre.

that week we became an industrial magnet, not for sex, but for glamour.

Did you ever expect to shoot these pictures…

can you make me a 6 foot image for my flat?? you know the one i want.

It felt like a duty… i hope one day we will look back on this trip and laugh.

you guys really know how to party

big kiss to you and Maciria

ben

 

More comments to follow, kinda busy with Uni work at the moment!!!!

 

 

 

Vila Mimosa

As some of you know, I am Brazilian. I lived in the state of Rio de Janeiro until I was sixteen, when I relocated to London.

A couple of years ago, on a visit back, I found myself incredibly bored on a Saturday night in a grotty suburb called Duque de Caxias with my best friends Binho and the stunning Fefeli and her then (grotty as I can’t describe)boyfriend. Desperately seeking thrills, we decided to gatecrash someone’s party.

Already drunk, we were met with a frosty reception that bordered on comical. I really couldn’t have cared less as being around any people, even of the obnoxious and grotty type, worked as a buffer zone between me and the grotty then-boyfriend. My reaction to their disparaging comments at that point was to play guitar and sing even louder, but my companions felt less and less at ease as the minutes progressed.

It was at this moment that a sympathetic man took pity on us for the wretched treatment we were made to suffer for our boredom. Like the player who had been holding his best card to his chest until the choicest moment, he called us girls to the side and asked:

– How would you two like to visit the biggest brothel in Rio?

– When?!!! Now? How?! What do you mean, the biggest brothel in Rio?

– It’s called the Vila Mimosa. I can drive us there, it’s not too far. There are plenty of bars there, we can have a good time and we won’t have to put up with anymore shit from these arseholes.

Our sense of adventure had suddenly been turned up a couple of notches. The biggest brothel in Rio!!!  With visions of a decrepit colonial mansion with a crumbling pink facade, or a warehouse on a disused factory site, we began to ponder escaping from the worst party we had ever attended. Satisfied that our fellow attendees were not going to warm to us anymore than they had already done, the five of us pack into this guy’s VW Beetle and set off on our wild escapade.

As we approached the borough of Sao Cristovao we drove past the Northeastern Flea Market, our driver turned into a street on the right, and after a while turned left. A Military Police Car was blocking the road, and we were told to pull over to the side. At this point our driver(who, may I add, we hadn’t met before the party)panicked, and decided to reveal he has a *small quantity of weed* in one of his pockets, and that we would basically have been screwed if he got searched. Knowing there was no way of discarding this through a window, the then-boyfriend suggested us girls could hide it in our bra or knickers, to which our outraged companion interjected:

Are you fucking stupid or something? That’s the first place he’s going to look. We’re not in the Zona Sul, ladies, he will stick his finger everywhere without giving it a second thought!

Frozen with fear, our illusions of ethical treatment crumbling beneath our trembling feet, we put on the sweetest, most wholesome expression we could possibly muster in that state of forgotten sobriety, and fortunately it seemed to work. After having his documents inspected under torchlight, our driver was given permission to proceed.

Finally we parked up somewhere, and wandered out through the streets lined with streetlamps like  inverted fluorescent fingernails; bars playing loud music and people spilling out, while Rio goths(a somewhat different breed to London goths)loitered around the corners looking menacing. And then, we are there:

We take a left and then a right(I dont really remember the order), and suddenly we are on a traffic-free cobbled street, packed solid with people. A woman walks out across the street into a bar, wearing nothing but a see-through red thong and high heels. Eh?

You may be surprised by my shock, considering us brazilian girls seem to think nothing of wearing impossibly tiny swimwear in broad sunlight; however, you may be surprised to know that topless sunbathing is illegal in most beaches, and frowned upon in a good proportion of the places where it is permitted. Furthermore, it was a chilly night in May. My London-toughened sensitivity to low temperatures still demanded a couple of warm layers.

Keeping our hands locked around our male companions’ arms with a grip of steel, we proceed to enter the dizzying labyrinth of gaudy neon-lit makeshift bars, where more and more women in various states of undress parade themselves upon the crowd that we have soon come to identify as 99.999…% male(i.e. my friend and I were the ONLY ‘unprofessional’ women there).

Some of you may laugh, having visited other sanitised prostitution areas as the Red Light District in Amsterdam. My shock came mostly from having an insider’s knowledge of Brazilian culture. This was no ordinary place designed for the attenuation of male lust: This was the place some of the poorest, loneliest and most desperate men of Brazil came to enjoy their Panis et Circensis as they received their miserable wages. The women who dangled themselves between the metal bars of the two or three-storey constructions lining the alleyways were not glowing with the fire of sensuality which is the stereotype of our nation; these were women of all ages, from girls who frankly did not appear to have conformed to the 18 years rule the Vila insists it subscribes to, to middle aged females who wore the physical marks of having borne many children whilst suffering the strictures of destitution. Just as you may walk down King’s Road on a Summer’s day and observe the radiant glow of incredibly attractive people who have obviously had a supermodel for a mummy and a hedge fund manager for a daddy and benefited from an optimum diet from conception, you may perceive the opposite on the weathered, beaten, ugly faces of people who have struggled for survival from the time they came from a half-starved agricultural labourer’s sperm. You can tell the difference from the people who were loved and cared for from the moment they were born to the people who came when there was no more affection or money to go round.

And still we stumbled drunkenly through the fanfare. Taking in the spectacle with our inebriated eyes wide open. The driver dude points out that all the prostitutes are squaring in their gazes at us suspiciously. Among those streets where every artery was clogged with men whose vacant eyes seemed to devour them, our fully clothed forms stood out like sore thumbs. Apparently it is pretty unusual for women to visit, a fact that probably accounts for my not being aware of the existence of this flagrant, unapologetic mecca for the sexually starved underwaged brazilian male until this point.  We were reminded of this continuously as group upon group of roudy punters circled us two girls and shouted:

E’ essa!

Ehhh, in case you were wondering, this is not a place I would advise an unaccompanied female to visit.

Speaking of the men for a minute: There were THOUSANDS of them. THOUSANDS. They were of some of the most humble origins in the country: lorry drivers, builders, pubescent young men from the favelas. There was something about the look in their eyes that I can’t quite put into words(I saw it expressed later in the work of photographer Hanspeter Schneider, more of which to follow). If any of you have ever been victims of violent crime, you may be aware of the instinct of peril your attackers instilled in you just before they made their move; this was in some way comparable, a ‘zoning into prey’, a search for the target. Evidently, it wasn’t as aggressive as a rudeboy kicking you in the face: It was the facial expression of absent human empathy. A vacant, but sinister gaze.

The lascivious, sexually aggressive, coarse persona of the puta seems convincing to the customer who has no desire to engage with the person underneath. A more sensitive observation reveals that the persona is just that; sheer performativity, an act. These are the women who will call out to men on the street as they walk on with their children in tow, will throw themselves at tourists with hands cupping a bollockfull. They make themselves obvious at a beach party amongst other scantily clad, gyrating women by dancing harder, ever more obscenely. They place themselves at the very margin of society, subjected to the attacks of the confusing canon of Brazilian morality which retains the ideals of chastity forever upheld by Catholicism whilst simultaneously sexualising women from infancy.  These women are object of scorn and disgust, of schoolboy jokes and violence. But going there, seeing them perform, made me curious. What brought these women to this place? Who were they when they left, at the end of the night, once they could drop the act?

I became determined to find out more about the Vila Mimosa. There is very little information about it on the internet, and whilst I have come to realise that it’s a subject for schoolboy locker rooms, no man I’ve met so far admits to actually having sex with one of the Vila girls – it is something friends would never let die down. One of the materials I did find, however, was a coffee table fashion book, shot by Hanspeter Schneider, called, would you believe, Vila Mimosa.

Basically the guy spent some time in the vila, scouting prostitutes for a fashion shoot where they wore Agent Provocateur lingerie(with the tags still left on, I bet he thought it was a really witty idea). The photography in the book is gritty and fairly raw, and did not annoy me much per se, apart perhaps from some shots that are highly stylised. What really cocked me off was an email sent by one of Schneider’s assistants which is published at the front of the book. It made the place look like subversive fun, like the women were free, like saying ‘the time you had a copper badge flashed in your face and an AK47 elegantly put to your stomach’ is something that should be glamourised rather than addressed for the barbarity it represents.

Anyway, my reason for posting this is that I am going for a short holiday in Rio next month and I intend to visit the Vila again, this time sober, and see if I can interview some of the girls. I will keep you informed.

Mexican Americans and Beaners…

 From Cheech and Chong’s ‘Next Movie’

  

…For those of us stuck at home with a bottle of wine on a Friday night…

Oh, and a quick correction: The Million Women Rise march actually starts at 12 in Hyde Park, and makes its way towards Trafalgar Square from there.