Saturday, 30 November 2013

Malala- where is she now


   In late December of last year we wrote a post about Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist who spoke out against the Taliban for their restriction of women's freedom and female education. Malala was targeted and shot in the head in early October 2012 in an attack outside her school. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying her work was an obscenity that needed to be stopped. "She was pro-West...she was young but she was promoting Western culture."

  After several surgeries and months of rehabilitation Malala recovered, and even went on to give an impassioned speech at the United Nations in July. But recently some people have been saying she is being unwittingly manipulated for political reasons, in articles like this and this. Malala has been speaking out against claims that she is being Westernized. Last month in a BBC interview she said, "“The thing is that the people of Pakistan have supported me. They don’t think of me as Western. I am a daughter of Pakistan and I am proud that I am a Pakistani.”

  Malala was in the running for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. It was awarded in October to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), but her work continues. "My father says that education is neither Eastern or Western. Education is education: it’s the right of everyone."



Sunday, 7 July 2013


  We were talking yesterday about dressing "presentably" in public, specifically when it comes to people who are overweight. We see two sides to the argument:

1) On the one hand, not everyone looks attractive in skin-tight or cropped clothes. 
2) On the other, who's to say or has the right to judge what is attractive? Why is there an expectation to look a certain way, especially for women? 

  The main point of our discussion was, is it oppressive or shaming to expect a woman who is overweight not to wear clothes that are "too revealing"? Is that fatphobic?

  While clothing may not be the most flattering on her, we also have to remember that there's alot of pressure for a woman to show skin, that somehow this makes her more "sexy". So while she sucumbs to the pressure we might look at her and think, why do you need to do all that to look good? Clothes are also designed for a very specific body type and if you dont fit that "standard" look, it makes it very difficult for you to find flattering clothing.

  We don't have all the answers, but what we did agree on was that we feel there's a difference between commenting on what someone wears vs commenting on their body itself. In other words, we may see someone out in public and feel what she's wearing isn't the best for her figure, while still not criticizing her physically. Every body type is beautiful, very few people can measure up to the standard that the media tells us is attractive and that we should strive towards. It's a falsehood. 
So we'll throw the question out to you, the readers: What do you think? Is it shaming a woman to comment on clothing we feel doesn't flatter her?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Can We Do Anything to Reduce Violence?

                                                                                                                                                           photo credit

Like most people, the bombing of the Boston Marathon left me a bit shaken. Almost immediately after I heard the news a friend posted a question on her Facebook wall asking what can be done to prevent this from recurring. I don't really think anything can be done to prevent these things from happening, not all the time, and there are many more influences that lead people to commit these acts that I haven't mentioned here. But I did have some thoughts to her question immediately after hearing the news, and this is what I wrote:

Here's what I think needs to be done, I don't have all the answers and yes some of it is maybe idealistic but it has to start somewhere. Acts of violence like this are becoming increasingly common, drastic situations call for for drastic measures and it needs to be addressed aggressively before it becomes an epidemic. One death from random senseless violence is one death too many.
People generally don't just snap and commit something like this, there's usually history behind it. So I think it needs to start at the roots, with kids. I don't think it can be argued that there's a breakdown in the family structure compared to even a few decades ago. Parents work more, leaving their children without guidance and direction, to be raised and influenced by the wrong groups. Kids need to be taught discipline and to be accountability, that actions have consequences. 

The media is responsible as well, I believe. All we hear about in the news is bad, it's a constant barrage of negativity and it's insidious. Doesn't do much to help people feel there's good in the world. That really needs to change. Many people have become desensitized to violence and human suffering. Video games promote death and killing for sport and do nothing to promote the value of human life.

We live in a society where it's acceptable to see someone get their head blown off graphically in the name of entertainment, but not acceptable to watch a couple having sex or see any form of nudity without warnings. Why? North American values are fucked up and desperately need to be re-evaluated. Cut down on violent programming and push shows that promote the values of relationships and human life. I know media is all about ratings and ultimately money, but what cost do we have to pay?

How about cutting back military funding for other countries and putting the money into social programs. Extra-curricular activities for kids after school to keep them from getting bored and looking for the wrong outlets. We need more restaurants that carry healthy food instead of all the processed crap that's all too readily available, not only is bad diet largely responsible for a massive amount of health problems but also plays a monumental role in the number of mental health issues we're seeing. A healthier body is also a healthier mind and, I believe, with more balance we'd see less random acts of violence. 

Despite being monsters, whoever planned this did so with forethought, skill and a degree of intelligence. I just wonder what history, what circumstances came together to drive them to the point of taking innocent lives.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Is This What a Feminist Looks Like?

                                                                                                                                     photo credit

  Leila pointed out to me some time ago that I'm a feminist. I've never seen myself as one, by my own definition I never thought that any man could be. I used to hold a very stereotypical view of what a feminist is: a woman, most likely in her forties or fifties, who dresses ultra-conservatively with her collar buttoned to the top and hair pulled back tight. Bitter from the way she's been treated by the men in her life and ready to make it known to anyone who'll listen how terrible the male species is.
  Since we met I've grown to realize that this simply isn't true.  Feminism isn't about the dislike of men at all, it has to do with seeking equal opportunities and fighting for social, educational and economic rights for women and other minorities. 

  The movement is directed mainly towards a society that permits behaviours which are oppressive and harmful not only towards women but anyone who does not live up to the expected behaviours of their class or gender. It's not about hating men, but about holding us to a higher standard, as people who are lucky enough to have been born in a position of privilege and power.  This means that behaviour chalked up to the notion that "boys will be boys" is no longer acceptable. It means not thinking that a girl or woman dressed in an outfit, no matter how revealing, is "asking for it" or being "provocative". It means that we men are more than just our hormones; the ability to control our primal urges is what sets us apart from animals. It's acknowledging that having these urges, no matter how strong, doesn't give us permission to act on them in any way that makes a woman feel uncomfortable or threatened in our presence. To believe we're not capable of rising to these standards is insulting and undermines our capacity for free will.

   I never considered that I could be a feminist because I always felt treating women equally and respectfully is something that should just come naturally for men. And if it doesn't for some, well, that's what the rallying cries of thousands of organized women were for. But the more Leila and I talked the more I realized that not only should men fight for better treatment of women in society, we need to consciously work towards eliminating the patriarchy that has brought us to the point where we need to fight back in the first place.
  I struggled with this new view of myself and my role in feminism for a while. I adore women, there's nothing on earth I appreciate more. But how can I as a straight male also see women as sexual beings, have all those thoughts running through my head when I see an attractive woman or *gasp* watch porn, and still be considered a feminist?

   What I came up with was this: It's okay for a man to be captivated by the physicality of women as long as he sees them as more than just a physical shell. By all means appreciate a woman's sexuality but respect her boundaries, recognize there's much more to her than this and celebrate her other sides equally and sincerely. 

   And so, if I'm a feminist I'll wear that badge proudly. I don't see it in negative terms anymore. Instead I see the possibilities that come with not only speaking out alongside women, but in supporting the notion that we as men are all capable of better. Respecting women should not be about stepping it up, but should simply be an expected standard.

  Thanks Leila for collaborating on this post with me. As always seems to happen when we talk, you've helped expand my thinking along the way. :) 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Food for thought

International Women's Day just passed, and not too surprisingly it brought on several conversations for both of us around sex, sexual assault and rape culture within our groups of friends.

Just to quickly define it for those that may not be familiar, rape culture is the way the media and society make rape out to seem like a casual occurrence. They blame the survivor (what was she wearing, was she drinking, what did she do to deserve it?) 

We wanted to share and hear your opinions. Here's an awesome quote from Kate Harding, an author and a blogger who wrote a message to many men out there basically describing why the things we say and do on a regular basis encourage behaviours that make rape acceptable. 

" ‘Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about crazy bitches and dumb sluts and heh-heh-I’d-hit-that and you just can’t reason with them and you can’t live with ‘em can’t shoot ‘em and she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid and if they can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and if they can’t play by the rules they don’t belong here and if they can’t take a little teasing they should quit and heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning and they’re not fit to be leaders and they’re too emotional to run a business and they just want to get their hands on our money and if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and…
I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.
But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates women–to the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.
And that guy? Thought you were on his side."

If you're interested in checking out the whole article you can find it here:

Thursday, 14 February 2013

One Billion Women Violated is an Atrocity, One Billion Rising is a Revolution!

It's been a while since we've posted. Life has been pretty intense for the both of us. I (Leila) have been applying for schools in Toronto to continue my education and it hasn’t been easy trying to find a prof to write me a refrence. Barry's been busy with work which has been quite hectic and life with Sandy going to school. So, our apologies! We usually try to post about once a week but as you can tell life has a way of telling you, it ain't happenin'.  

So I thought i'd put up a post and talk about  a really awesome movement that's happening today, or for some yesterday depending on the time zone. It's called 1Billion Rising and it's a call to action for people around the world. 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.  That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends. 
What 1 Billion Rising is asking is that one billion people around the world today at any time, anywhere, just get up and dance and demand to end violence. I know it sounds silly and in all honesty i thought so too at first. How is dancing supposed to solve anything?  Here’s what they have to say…

"Dancing insists we take up space. It has no set direction but we go there together. It's dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at anytime with anyone and everyone. It's free. No corporation can control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further. It's contagious and it spreads quickly. It's of the body. It's transcendent."

“A global strike
An invitation to dance
A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture end
An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers
A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
A new time and a new way of being”

I think one of the most beautiful things about it, is that it's peaceful. You don’t have to do much at all and the best part is, it’s free. A revolution isn't always about violence and anger, it can be about demanding change in a fun and productive way. It seems this movement has really caught on, Pakistan did it yesterday and though they didn't dance (Dancing is illegal in public) they had a discussion. As writers of this blog, we firmly believe that productive and honest discussions are one of the easiest and most effective ways to bring peace. 

Take a look at some of the people rising around the world...

Here's one movement in Bali Indonesia

Here's another from Mumbai India...some great interview included

Australia- Byron Beach. I couldn't get the video onto the blog but you really should check this one out!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Notable Women of 2012- Jamie Grumet (Part Four of Five)

                                                                                                              photo credit

Jamie Grumet is a twenty-six year old mother of two who appeared on the cover of Time magazine last May. The focus was a story on attachment parenting, a philosophy of raising children which encourages parents to be more attuned to their children's needs.  

The magazine sparked controversy in its decision to use a photo showing her four year old son Aram standing on a stool while she breastfed him. While this picture was taken during the shoot, Jamie and her husband were not aware it would appear on the cover and were never consulted. The additional tag line, "Are You Mom Enough?" incited public outrage. 

Jamie felt, as did many, that the intent of the cover was to create a 'mommy war' pitting mothers who nurse against those who don't.  The media ran with this and spun the story to appear that Jamie was forcing the ideas of attachment parenting on others, when in fact she was always pro choice in how people should raise their children. 

This has a personal side for me. Last May when I first heard about this story I decided to do some research, since I had never heard of attachment parenting. Specifically I was unfamiliar with extended breastfeeding, which is nursing a child beyond its first year of infancy. 

Along the way I ended up contacting Jamie to learn about the story through her own words. I realized that she and her family were misrepresented by most of the coverage they received. There was little mention of their son Samuel, whom they adopted in Ethiopia. There was no mention of her work with the Fayye Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the orphan crisis in the Sidama area of Ethiopia. In general the media focused on her looks and attacked the concept of extended breastfeeding rather than presenting it as one alternative of many to raising children. 

Jamie Grumet is in our list not only because she is a loving mother but because of the way she chose to handle attacks by the media and the public. We've become friends, and I've grown to learn that the way she and her family have been portrayed is not who they really are. Her courage and grace are an inspiration.