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Feminism is not against Islam, and not all feminists are cat ladies, or why “Good Brothers” are “Nice Guys”

A lot of Muslim men recently have gone on feminist-hating binges, and it is starting to get old with me. You’re all invited to my wedding with Pablito.


A few brief  thoughts on what “good Muslim brothers” and “nice guys” have in common when it comes to getting married/laid: there is a fundamental problem with how they view women, a pathology normal women pick up subconsciously (e.g. women not being good enough, having fixed ideas on how good women should be, expecting women to be grateful for basic respect and common courtesy). Saying you honor and respect women and walking the walk are two different things, and if you aren’t making that connection, check yourself and check your intention, as being nice and giving us our rights are not “gifts” and all feminists are not man hating cat ladies ignorant of Islam or culture.

i am so very tired of people offering platitudes like how islam gives women rights, when alll you have to do is look at the ummah (prayer spaces in masajid,  men going poly or otherwise “upgrading”, how no good cheating scrubs can go to jummah with their heads held high but a woman who burns the biryani better make two rakah…and so on) to know that actually, we don’t have the place our religion has promised to us.  And the same guys saying this are usually the same ones shitting on feminism.

Yes, i do have a problem with mainstream feminism- the lack of inclusion of women of color, of trans women, of anyone that isn’t Lena Dunham. But that doesn’t mean that Islam as it is practiced today by men gives me my rights as a woman, as a Muslim woman, and it doesn’t mean that Muslim men are walking the walk of the salaf.  And it gets old. Continually.  And that is why i continue to identify as a feminist, and continue to lock out muslim men who try to shit on feminism to my face.



Quick thoughts on Ramadan Prep

Some ongoing stomach problems made it hard for me to fast last year, and while my issues have gotten worse, I’m more optimistic about having a better Ramadan this year.  Every year I dole out some top food tips. Some of these may be repeats (it is my 14th Ramadan after all), some may not.

  1. Stop caffeine now if you haven’t already. Start tapering ASAP. Ramadan days are long this year and your headache plus the heat will be the absolute suck.
  2. Make sure going into Ramadan you are as hydrated as you can be. Here in Switzerland the days are going to be around 16 hours long. You need to already have a good water situation going to compensate for the fact that some nights you would rather sleep/pray than pee due to chugging liters of water. Also, better hydration=less headaches in the early days.
  3. I’ve said this many years but it always bears repeating: even if you are breaking fast with friends or at the mosque, do not hold someone else responsible for your food because you never know what is going to happen. One Ramadan i was commuting Geneva to Lausanne, and I didn’t break fast in Geneva at maghrib because I was like “oh I’ll be home in an hour, it’s all good.”  Then the train got stuck. I didn’t get home for almost five hours.  Good thing I had a thermos and some dates on me. I always have a travel mug and some tea bags or instant soup and always dates on me.  Also, even if you go to the masjid, have your little thermos of tea and your dates on you. Let people raid the buffet table, get your food when things are calm. Plus, due to the questionable behavior of certain believers when it comes to buffets and masajid, you aren’t even guaranteed food a lot of times because auntie put some biryani in her purse to take home. Be prepared.
  4. If you live alone, there are days you will not be feeling cooking or running the gauntlet at the masjid.  In these cases, some easy staple foods are your friends.  I make sure i have a lot of instant soup (hydration) and some raw veggies I can just chop and eat (cucumbers and celery are also great hydraters). My Forever Alone Ramadan Fridge is full of yogurt, veggies, precooked rice or couscous grains (more on that below), and flavored waters or teas (more also below).  Have a good stash going at home for stuff that doesn’t take a million years to cook.
  5. Sundays generally are my cooking days but in Ramadan i shift that to Saturday, because on Sunday I need to be focused on resting, sleeping and getting my game on for work.  On Saturday, I usually cook whatever i want to do dish wise for the week and freeze it. I also make a big pot of chorba to nurse on until Monday or Tuesday.  I also make and freeze couple of single servings of saffron rice or couscous grains. That way if I actually eat meat (more on that below) I have a quick side, and if I am not feeling like anything that day, I don’t have to wait for rice to cook. I try on Wednesday or Thursday to make beans or lentils to see me through until Friday because they don’t freeze well.
  6. I see so many people who are casual vegetarians (like myself, i’m not denying the permissibility of meat but I don’t digest it well) suddenly go crazy and want meat every day for Ramadan. That’s not exactly how the salaf did it.  Don’t change your habits to much other than trying to eat lighter.  You don’t have to eat like a king just because it is Ramadan. Of course, if you are generally a big carnivore, I’m not saying change your ways, but if you’re like me,don’t drink the kool-aid about how in Ramadan it isn’t iftar if you haven’t eaten the animal products of a small farm.
  7. I sadly know a lot about stomach issues over the past year and so I speak with authority that you need to baby your stomach in Ramadan. This is another reason not to go all out on the meat or pastries. The cool thing about fasting is that it gives your digestive system a break; don’t attack it with a ton of fatty, sugary, greasy food that it will take until the next iftar to process and digest.  Think bland, small portions, and wait a bit between servings. That said, even if you take a quick nap, wake up for iftar. It’s still important. Your sleep brain will tell you “oh it’s only two hours, you got this” and your fasting brain at asr will ask you why you didn’t have breakfast.
  8. 16-hour days. In the summer.  You’ll need a lot of liquid at night.  I find drinking straight water gets boring, so I make a lot of cold-pressed tea, herbal tea and infusions in nalgene bottles. The cool thing about cold-pressed is you just put it in the fridge and forget it until the next day. I’ve got five bottles, so I usually make enough for the first half of the week then just reuse my bottle each night with a new batch. I won’t post a recipe because it really is that simple: throw some tea into a nalgene bottle, add a pinch of sugar if you want, pour water over it, leave it in the fridge until it gets cold, and strain it when you want to drink it. That way, you aren’t drinking soda or processed stuff that can irritate your stomach, and you’re hydrating. When i’m really lazy, I stick a few sprigs of mint into an Evian bottle and leave it. Delicious.
  9. For a lot of us under 40, this will be our first middle-of-summer Ramadan. Don’t overextend yourself with invitations. As in years past, I only “go out” (mosque, friends) one night a week. Spend a few days seeing how your body reacts to fasting. Pencil in time to be introspective and pray.
  10. Finally, clean your house and shop for groceries now like you’re nesting. You will only have the time, energy and desire to do the bare minimum one Ramadan rolls around, and the nighttime should be your time, not “do stupid stuff i don’t want to do like clean” time. I’ve stocked up on cat litter and started some deep cleaning. The week before Ramadan and then on the following Saturdays, I organize my work outfits for the week to minimize thinking before I wake up and maximize my ability to get a few more winks in.


Early Review of the Blackberry Z10

  • In my company we have a few users, including myself, who have been using Blackberry Z10s for a couple of weeks. I’m sold and I think it is a solid work device, but first a little backstory. And full disclosure: I’m in charge of the cell phone fleet for around 30 people in a BYOD environment where Blackberry is an option as the IT department is willing to run the servers.
I had had Blackberry phones as part of my old job’s fleet around 2006-2007 (I had a 7270, to give you an idea of the last time I actually used a Blackberry).  My first true smartphone was an iPhone 3.  Then I got a 3GS, both iPhones were meh.  I then switched to a Nexus S, which was the one true phone love of my life (another story for another post). Then I got a Galaxy Nexus and it was the most buggy piece of crap I have ever owned- I had problems with the power button, I had problems with it freezing, I had problems with the battery- I don’t understand how my Nexus S could have been so awesome and its successor have been so crap.
On the nexus phones for work I was running Good for Enterprise, probably one of the biggest email clients for BYOD environments.  I had a few problems with Good: sometimes it would randomly decide my account was no longer authorized, it wouldn’t save drafts, and you couldn’t edit forwards or attachments.  That said, Good tech support technicians are about a hundred shades of awesome.

So I was kind of over Good and over Android phones, at least temporarily, and had no real desire to go back to iPhone, and Good isn’t supported on the latest Windows phone anyway. So I decided to give the Z10 a chance by default, and go back to Blackberry, if only to help with my users who were going to be on it.
As I said above, I’m happy with the Z10, but mainly as a WORK device. The way it handles my work email is a big change for me over Good.  I’ve gone back to what I used to do in my Blackberry days- start an email in the train and finish it in the office.  I also like the spellcheck on the Z10 and how it expects either of my languages and provides suggestions for both.  Being able to view and edit office documents, which was impossible/not ergonomic depending on policy in Good, has made a huge difference in how I work, as I don’t have to do heavy word processing in my current position, which having this functionality on the phone is a real plus for just fixing typos and the like. I’ve had other users mention that in certain situations, it means they can bypass their laptop. I also, unlike with Good, have not yet had my work email crash on my phone on me.
That said, I think it is a separate story for a separate post on whether or not people should have work email on their phones, which has been the subject of debate ever since Blackberry devices came out. Suffice it to say my position at work means I need to either have work email on my phone or commit to being logged into VPN for a chunk of my private time in the evenings, so for me, it makes sense for my job, with the only other option being two phones. Others may feel differently. Thus this post is from the point of view of someone who wants and needs work email on a personal phone phone.
The reason that I think the Z10 is more of a work device is because, as a private device, I have some issues with the Z10 which can be tied to the fact that it is a first release. Namely, the app store is somewhat lacking, but in all fairness there are only two programs I use frequently that aren’t there- Instagram and SBB Mobile.  As these can in principle be sideloaded (and anyway, the SBB mobile web site is fine), I didn’t find them dealbreakers, but I can see how it would be annoying to some, especially iPhone users. I plan on sideloading Instagram just to try, and just to say I sideloaded, so expect an update on that.  The Facebook app on the Z10 has less functionality than its Android counterpart (there is no share option, and you can’t manage a page) but the BB app is way less buggy- on my Android it crashed all the time.
Two common complaints with the Z10 -its design and battery life- have not given me any problems. The Z10 is slightly wider and about as long as an iphone 5.  The design is minimalist- and for me, a phone is a phone. I don’t know how much more you can innovate with a touch screen meant to fit in a normal hand, anyway.  The battery life is not completely blowing my mind- on heavy use I get about ten hours, and stretched it to 16 yesterday and today with medium use. Another one of my users, however, reported that he consistently only gets about ten hours on his Z10. Keep in mind as well that my Galaxy Nexus (which probably was a walking hardware problem specific to the device and not to all Galaxy Nexus phones) only had around 9 hours, and this after replacing the battery.  I understand 12-15 hours is normal for iPhone 5 users, and I have hit that once. Furthermore, another blogger hit ten-ish hours on his Z10 as well and his iPhone fared worse. So having said all that, I think 10 hours is on the lower end of normal for smartphones, and it may shock users of “old” Blackberry models the most (which could go days on a charge), but for me, it isn’t shockingly bad or even annoying compared to my previous phones.
A quick surf around the internet shows some people have also complained about the UX of the new 10 series phones.  It took me about two days to get used to my phone, I did not have a steep learning curve with it, nor when I switched from iPhone to Android.  I learn these things quickly and I don’t like how bloggers and forum users make out how the BB UX is so difficult no one will ever understand it. I don’t have any complaints about the phone settings or parameters that a quick surf of my phone or a dig on the internet could not fix.  For me, criticizing the BB10 interface is just free nastiness because it isn’t like some huge failure of ergonomy compared to Android and iPhone, not even close (and I am well-placed to say that). It’s just different.
In closing, I think the Blackberry Z10 is for:
  • people whose companies have a generous BYOD policy and whose IT departments are willing to run the Blackberry 10 Server
  • people whose companies are Blackberry only who could now in principle, depending on the billing policies of company phones, get away with only one smartphone
  • people who are already Blackberry fans
IMO, people who may want to take a pass on the Z10 are:
  • private users not running their email through a BES, as it is really the strongest point of a device whose other qualities put it in the mid range of Android phones
  • heavy users of the apps which are not native to the Blackberry 10s yet, like Instagram, although sideloading remains possible
  • people who just want a smartphone and don’t want work email on their phone- there are cheaper options, like some mid-range Android models

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Quick update

Some good news on the MMW front I will let y’all know about as it happens…


As I wrap some of that up, watch this space because I hope to write a few posts in the coming weeks:


1. on what “good Muslim brothers” and “nice guys” have in common when it comes to getting married/laid: there is a fundamental problem with how they view women, a pathology normal women pick up subconsciously (e.g. women not being good enough, having fixed ideas on how good women should be, expecting women to be grateful for basic respect and common courtesy). Saying you honor and respect women and walking the walk are two different things, and if you aren’t making that connection, check yourself and check your intention, as being nice and giving us our rights are not “gifts” and all feminists are not man hating cat ladies ignorant of Islam or culture;


2.  On how I have been toying with vegetarianism and veganism for the past six weeks: I am pretty happy with the outcome and will continue the experiment- I think modern agriculture has its issues and our best weapon in the sustainability of the planet is eating locally and responsibly, and paying attention to our meat sources, which is sunnah anyway.


Catch y’all soon!

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When your makeup stash is too big

I used to have a fairly large, fairly expensive makeup stash which took up a small dresser drawer. By Makeup Alley standards, it was probably on the high end of a medium-sized stash. I’ve now purged down to a boot box.   In fact, my stash got so small- I over purged my blushes, bronzers and lipsticks- that I had to gank some from my mother in October. I think big stashes are a by-product of our consumer society and the Limited Edition craze so many makeup brands push on us, and it takes a while to navigate the waters and pull the good products from the hype. The truth is, we so rarely finish cosmetics these days, and keeping a large stash is just consigning items to rot one day.  I know a lot of makeup hoarders are going to make New Year’s resolutions about shopping their stashes or going on low- or no-buys, so I figured I would write a quick and dirty post about what worked for me.  I originally started my first low-buy because I was out of cash (while some people were going on exotic vacations with their lovers but whatevers) but it has been a philosophical shift in how I shop for makeup.

1. Keep a notepad by your vanity and write down what you use in a month and how many times you use it.  Put that in a “keep” pile, even if it is huge. We’ll come back to this. Skincare and haircare count too.

2. Make a second keep pile of stuff you didn’t use which is either a) out of season or b) swappable/sellable. This could be limited edition items, or bronzers that only work in summer but work well. This should be small and really only contain stuff like Guerlain Meteorites compacts and the like.

3. Be honest with yourself about trash-by dates.  If something is more than two years old (1 year for foundation and sunscreen, 3-6 months for mascara), or its texture/odor has changed, just chuck it. The exception is some powder products which have been stored correctly. For example, I have some Shu and Chanel blushes which may be around five years old, but they have been in a dark closet just chillin and are fine.

4. I’m not big into wastefulness, but if your stash has gotten big enough to consider a no-buy or low-buy, you also need to throw stuff away that you can’t swap, sell or use, like old mascara and wand lipgloss, half empty bottles of shampoo and the like. Also, a lot of drugstore stuff isn’t swappable (except for cult products). If you don’t use stuff that you can’t share (wand stuff, pot creams, eye creams), just toss it.

5. Now that you have made your first cull, let’s go back to what you use in a month. In my case, it was four blushes, two bronzers and a couple of eyeshadow palettes, as well as six lip glosses.  Of these, two of the blushes and one of the eye shadow palettes I had only used once, ditto for two of the lip glosses.  So I purged the less used items and put them into the “second pile.”

6. With my “second pile” (“stuff worth keeping that I wasn’t using frequently”), I kept some to the side for swapping during my low-buy (more on that later) and purged the rest through swapping or just giving them away. I have a SIL who doesn’t mine my secondhand glosses so she got those, and a lot of powder cosmetics and stick lipsticks went into what I call the “Marriage Kit” whereby my female relatives use them as a communal stash for dolling up people at weddings.

7. I wasn’t too hard on myself- I kept my two Meteorites compacts (although one is BNIB and I don’t exclude swapping it later) and some LE Guerlain bronzers, my Lancome Erika F eyeshadow and a Dior highlighter.  Your ultimate goal should be having a manageable stash that doesn’t hog your space and is full of products you use frequently but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep a small amount of products which are meaningful to you or which have monetary value (the coin I could get for that Guerlain on Ebay…). Follow the spirit of the cull, not the letter.  The only thing I did not cull at all was my brush collection. These are all high end (Shu, LM, Kanebo) and last around twenty years anyway. Keep the good tools.

8. Now you are ready for your low- or no- buy.  I have been on a low-buy for two years now. In my case, for the first six months I only replaced mascara, loose powder, moisturizer and eye cream, e.g. stuff I used daily and ran out of. As I started finishing lip gloss and lipsticks or hitting pan in blushes or bronzer, I would allow myself to replace a finished product with something new.  Likewise, every six months, I cull my stash and contribute to the Marriage Kit or swap out what I am truly not using. I would also use my swap pile to replace by trading items I ran out of rather than buy.  My stash has gotten so small now that I don’t really swap or give away any more.

9. Don’t beat yourself up about the money you spent on makeup that is now going to other people or to the trash. I look at it as an investment in a learning experience whereby I got to experiment with a lot of different brands and styles on the way to finding out exactly what worked for me. I don’t even think about my makeup any more and yet every time I put in just a little effort, I get complimented on mah mad skeelz. I have the tools I need to do a day look, a work look, a OMG IZ NYE PARTAY look and the like, and you can’t get to that point without having had a big stash at some point.  The worst is that on a given day I generally only wear powder and mascara, and this regardless of the size of my stash. I think on some level, my big stash was a crutch.

One final note: when I first started, it helped me a lot to stop reading makeup blogs and going on MUA. Now that I am in a phase where I will buy stuff within reason, blogs and MUA are a great resource for making the difference between quality and hyped products, but it may be worth it at first to quit “makeup” cold turkey for a while, especially during LE collection seasons.  The pan pr0n is ALWAYS worth it.

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Since it is December 6th…

A few weeks back, Carla Bruni was in Vogue magazine talking about how she doesn’t feel the need to be a feminist any more. I think that is cute.  She specifically said that her generation doesn’t need to be feminist, like she is that young or something. I admire her frankness- she also owned up to being a real bourgeois- but what she is selling is quite dangerous.  I agree with her- Carla Bruni doesn’t need to be a feminist.  Why? Because she is a heiress who was born into money, who made a hecka lot more money modeling, then made some more money singing, then married the president of France. She has the capital she needs several hundred times over.  People like Carla Bruni “don’t need” feminism. The waitress trying to pay for her abortion? She needs feminism.  The talented manager who keeps getting passed over for senior management and board positions? She needs feminism. The working mother whose husband expects her to bring home the bacon and be Donna Reed too? She needs feminism. The single mom who can’t afford childcare while her ex-dude is off making more babies with someone else? She needs feminism too.  But a rich lady who can afford to walk away if her dude doesn’t fly right? Ok Carla, you don’t need feminism.  For me it is always about capital.  We don’t all get good husbands. We don’t all get money. Until then, we need feminism. I need the same salary as a man with equal talent. I need access to management positions if I want them. I need to not be judged for being divorced. I need to not be judged for choosing not to have children.  These things aren’t possible without a feminist bent.

Feminism gets a bad rap these days.  I feel like everything my mother ‘s and grandmother’s generations fought for is going down the drain.  Women in their little suburban homes who think death or divorce can’t happen to them. The same women who egg on men when they say that feminists are bitter and hate men and don’t want to do housework.  Which leads me to the title of this post. You know who I think of when some man tries to diss feminism to me? I think of this dude. People want to talk about how he was an isolated, crazy gun toting mental case- but read about some of the stuff he says. Women taking men’s jobs, women wanting their cake and eating it too for crazy things like maternity leave (OMG right), women being opportunists who only want what belongs to men without fighting the hard fights.  That is the undercurrent to what people say when they start going off about how feminists are “bitter” or feminists “hate men.” It has been 23 years since the Polytechnique massacre.  Are women really better off? Listen to the crap men and, scarily, women are saying about gender politics and roles.

And I love it when Muslim men want to go off about how “Islam doesn’t need feminism because blah blah respect women blah blah Islam gave rights to women blah blah.” But I still don’t think Islam as it is practiced these days, aka Hislam, is fair to women and true to what the early Muslims intended. Come back and tell me how great Muslim women have it when:

  • scrubs who sleep around, cheat and beat their wives aren’t allowed to come to jummah and get shunned the way cheating or promiscuous women get slut shamed at the masjid too.
  • women have equal spaces in our masajid and both men and women’s spaces have childcare sections. For these past two points, rip a page out of the Christian playbook. I grew up in churches where EVERYONE was welcome.
  • men stop abusing polygamy and call it sunnah when they don’t have a job and three of their wives are on welfare
  • women stop being judged by their clothing
  • imans stop telling women who are victims of DV to “have some sabr sister” while the yeahbros at the masjid welcome her husband to hang out for coffee and hookah
  • when Muslim men walking the walk and living according to the sunnah when it comes to fair treatment of women becomes a majority situation, not a minority one

I don’t consider myself theologically liberal at all but the place of women in our ummah leaves to be desired. We have bigger problems than women leading prayer or wearing hijab or not. The pathology of the ummah in how it treats women runs deeper than just a few crazies doing “honor killings”, just like how Marc Lepine was a random crazy but still part of a larger pathology of hatred and violence against women.  Islam is a beautiful religion, but we gotta get back to the roots. Don’t betray the peace and grace of MY RELIGION TOO by making flippant, offhand comments about how feminists are man-hating “lesbians.” Our scars run deep.


Debrief on the DALF C2

When I took the C1, one of the jury members during the oral exam encouraged me to take the C2.  I didn’t need the C2 and nobody really needs it (you only need a B1 for a French or a Swiss (in Romandie) passport, a B1 at the university of Lausanne (I think because they make you take more classes) and a C1 for most French-language universities.  Out of pure vanity (bred from years of being knocked down by people with shitty English telling me how bad my French was) I decided to take the C2.  The key reason I wanted to take the C2 was because, like when I took the C1, my written French had gone down, paradoxically since working in the French part of Switzerland. At work, you mainly use French to talk with colleagues, and what you write in French always turns out to be the same thing. So your speaking skills grow as conversations change, but your writing skills stagnate because it is always the same formulas and stock phrases.

Most of the hits on my blog come from people looking for information on the two DALF tests.  As such, I hope the link above helps for the C1, and my advice below is pretty much the same for the C2: study the test format and how to “give them what they want” by taking a prep class; and work on your “peripheral” skills- if you don’t have a good “general culture” you will not have the gimme points you need. I passed in rather poor test conditions (had been in the hospital and was physically ill the day of the oral) and yet I hadn’t studied the way I wanted. This is not a humblebrag, read on:

1. To some extent, if you don’t have the level for the C2 you just don’t have the level.  You can prepare and study for the test and learn the proper techniques, but what wound up pushing me over the top despite an appalling lack of preparedness was the fact that I had a huge vocabulary. That’s not something you can work out over a couple of months. Either you have watched a lot of French tv and read a lot of books, or you haven’t. This is why I DO NOT suggest spending only a few months studying for this exam if vocabulary is your weak point.  At the C1 level vocabulary is important too. You can write gramatically and stylistically perfect French and speak without an accent, but if your vocabulary capital isn’t very high, you won’t pass either exam.  I would have failed this exam without my vocabulary.  I saw this in my prep classes: there were students better accents (ok everyone has a better accent than me) and with stronger grasps on grammar who were lacking the style and catchphrases of a larger vocabulary, which only comes from having a love for Francophone culture. This means watching tv, listening to the radio and reading books and magazines. If you don’t do these things already in French or don’t want to for the purposes of the exam, you might want to stick with the B2 or the C1.

2. The C2 is an unnecessary test- I can’t think of any place, maybe a journalism school or an advanced teaching school where a C1 wouldn’t do, and the C2 is a bit harder. Even the HEP in Switzerland only asks for the C1.  I think BS-ing the C1 is within the reach of a fair amount of people but trying to BS the C2 like I did is an expensive gamble. Ask yourself why you want the C2? Can’t the *easier* C1 accomplish the same goal?  I would be interested in any comments from people who were specifically asked for a C2 exam for administrative or professional reasons. As mentioned above, mine was pure vanity, and an exercise in regaining self-esteem after being told by people how shitty my French is. Well no, apparently it isn’t because I passed and now I have the piece of paper.  Also remember that language proficiency is the law of diminishing returns: someone with a high B1 in French isn’t getting much more out of his or her professional or social life than I am at C2. So…if you are taking it to be “papered up,” great, but if your boss or your school only wants a B1 or a C1, this is a tiring and difficult way to overkill.  (as an aside, another subject for another post is how the B2 is a bullshit exam in French and you might as well take the C1).

3. Even more so than for the C1, speaking good French isn’t enough, LEARN HOW TO TAKE THE TEST. The C2 is harder than the C1, with only two sections: the listening and oral are combined, and the written comprehension and the essay are combined. I scored much higher on the oral section (I had gotten a perfect score on the C1) but on both tests my writing was disproportionately lower (still passing but yeah). My score in writing was lower than it could have been because I didn’t respect the format, because I didn’t learn the format, because I missed so much class being sick and travelling. Know how to write a “plan”, know how to write the different types of essays requested. Like I said for the C1, you either need to take a prep class, get a ton of books, or have spent time in France-French schools to understand the pedantic way they want things. This advice goes for all language tests, actually: speaking well doesn’t mean you write well, and it doesn’t mean you know how to follow instructions and have good test taking techniques. Like the SAT, the DALF C2 needs prep time.

4. For books, I used the same ones mentioned in the C1 prep, but also another Tegos book,    “Réussir le nouveau DALF – Niveau C2.”  Remember at this point in language study, you shouldn’t have any picky grammar issues. If you do, you don’t have the level. You should be able to write 300 words in a couple of hours without relying heavily on a dictionary or a spellchecker. I didn’t use my dictionary in the C2 except for reading it at the end when I finished an hour before everyone else.  You should be able to have an involved conversation about a specific news topic in reasonably full detail. So these books really only focus on listening and writing, and your teacher preps you for the spoken exam.  If you need a push in grammar (I did before the C1), I really like the Nouvelle grammaire du francais from Hachette for reading. I’ve used various editions of it since my Montpellier days and it is good to just flip through. You could then get a workbook, either the Hachette edition (niveau moyen, more on that next sentence)or the one CLE Grammaire progressive du francais  intermediate edition). I’m not suggesting getting the advanced books because one tip from my C2 teacher, who is right, was not to use the “advanced” exercise books for grammar help but to pick out books aimed at a B1 level- because if you are truly lacking in something, any advanced book isn’t going to tell you why you don’t know it, whereas an intermediate book is going to spell it out.

I hope these random thoughts help.  I’m happy to respond to comments and if you found this because you are taking the exam, good luck!

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Forty years ago

Forty years ago, the Bobigny trial took place, a turning point in legalizing abortion in France. While not at the same legal level, it has the same impact in France as Roe v Wade.

The story is of a girl who was raped by a classmate at age 16. In many ways, it is your typical “how to get an abortion in times of illegality” story- it all boiled down to money (remember: when you make abortion illegal, the rich and well connected will always find a way to have one) and the young girl’s mother wound up taking her daughter to an illegal abortionist and then having to take her to the hospital for hemorrhaging.

As I said, the girl’s story is sadly banal as far as abortion stories go, with one catch. As an American living in the Todd Akin era, one point in the Bobigny trial case is crucial for me: The girl and her family were ratted out to police BY HER RAPIST, who got nabbed for some unrelated petty crime and hoped tattling would get him out of trouble.  Are you with me here when I say rape is about power?

This situation wouldn’t happen in France today. But it could very easily, almost too easily, happen in the United States almost forty years later.  This part of the story is a perfect example on why I see abortion rights as an extension both of feminism and reproductive health. I cannot even imagine the pain, injustice and indignity of being raped, getting pregnant by rape and going through an entirely unsafe abortion where she almost died, and then the anguish of going through a court trial also because of her rapist.

This is the reality of why people like Paul Ryan scare me. Rape may be “another means of conception” or when Todd Akin wants to redefine what rape is for the millions of women who have been raped. The Bobigny trial is ancient history in France but the post-Roe America is future TODAY. Look at all the women in jail for being pregnant. Look at the personhood movement.  I can dig that people have religious or moral objections against abortion, but limiting access to abortion is when injustice like this happens.