Sunday, 30 December 2012

Notable Women of 2012- Balpreet Kaur (Part Two of Five)

                             photo credit

Balpreet Kaur is an Ohio State University sophomore studying neuroscience and psychology. She's also a baptized Sikh and follows the tenets of her faith, one of them being kesh or uncut hair. In September she was waiting in line at an airport, unaware that her picture was being taken. The picture was posted on Reddit and was followed by comments criticizing her appearance. When it started to go viral a friend told her what was
happening, and Balpreet joined Reddit to defend herself and her religion.

  She explained why she ignores societal views of physical beauty in favour of inner virtue, that by not worrying about her outward appearance she's able to better focus on actions that matter. Her short essay received an
outpouring of very positive support from thousands of people, even Cracked.com praised her for a "graceful and fresh" response. News of this started spreading out from feminist and web culture blogs. Four days later the person who originally posted the photo and criticized her wrote a heartfelt apology.

  We're impressed with the way Balpreet handled the criticism so gracefully. Instead of lashing back in anger she chose to educate people about her faith of which she is so rightfully proud, and a lot of people learned something in the process.

References: CBC article
                  Huffington post article
                  Jezebel article

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Notable Women of 2012- Malala Yousafzai (Part One of Five)

                                                                                                                   photo credit

  Malala Yousafzai is a 14-year old Pakistani activist who spoke out against the Taliban's restriction of women's freedom and female education. She was shot in the head in early October in a targeted attack outside her school, along with two of her friends who were also hit by stray bullets. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, saying her work was an obscenity that needed to be stopped. "She was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her ideal leader. She was young but she was promoting Western culture."

  As part of her fight for girls' education Malala anonymously blogged for the BBC (here) about what was happening, which included the burning of girls' schools. She also talked of her desire to set up her own political party and a vocational institute for marginalized girls in her area. Her efforts were recognised, and Pakistan's prime minister awarded her the country's first National Peace award.

  Malala is still undergoing treatment and unable to come back to school, but her friends who were also wounded are returning in defiance of the Taliban. Despite her age we're including Malala on our list of women we admire most this year. Her courage and commitment to a cause, and her courage to pursue it is tremendously inspiring.

Update: Jan 4, 2013  

Malala was released from hospital yesterday and is recovering at home. Doctors are scheduled to perform cranial reconstructive surgery on her within the coming month, where they will replace a shattered portion of her skull with either her own bone or a titanium plate.

References: Guardian article
                  Vancouver Sun article

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Masculinity Redefined

photo owned by Men Can Stop Rape

 I loved this article so much that I had to give my thoughts, because it says so much about a pending shift in what defines masculinity (at least in North America).

  I've never been what would be considered a "guy's guy". I'm not heavily into sports or drinking. As a married man I have a healthy attraction to women but won't be found running them down or engaging in any other stereotypical macho behaviour. Sure I love renovating with power tools and can swear like a truck driver, but none of these things are what makes a man, a man.

  The rules that hetero men are expected to follow are unwritten but very definite. Hugging each other is discouraged; a knowing pat on the back is required to make it okay. Men don't say they love each other in case, God forbid, it's taken the "wrong" way. And of course men don't cry, it's a sign of weakness. But to me, being secure enough to express emotion in these ways are a sign of strength.

  I began blogging three and a half years ago, and along the way most of the friends I've made have been women. That's not co-incidental. The fact that women are more emotionally open and expressive has always been a draw for me, it's something I relate to very strongly. And it's had a bit of a snowball effect, because the more conversations I have the more I realize the obstacles women are up against. If there's anything I've learned it's this: in order for the sexes to understand each other we need to dispose of the stereotypes, what we only THINK we know. And since this post is about redefining society's construct of masculinity, I believe this is where it has to start. One of the best ways to bridge the gap in understanding between the sexes is for men to lower our walls and become a little more emotionally available. Sure the opposite sex can be a mystery, but it's never enough to accept that it's just the way it is. If instead we take time to listen I can promise we'll gain a better understanding of women's thoughts, feelings and needs.

  Becoming more attuned in this way comes through compassion and respect, and they both need to be taught at an early age. I don't have a lot of memories of having a strong male figure in my life. My parents divorced when I was twelve and through my teens I lived with an alcoholic stepfather who had a raging temper and a less than flattering opinion of women. The values I was taught as a child carried me through those years and I swore I would never treat women as my stepfather did. Had I been raised solely by him I could have turned out very different from what I am today.

  In the end I think we're going to see a turn over time in the way masculinity is defined by society. My experience has shown me how much influence a male figure can have on a boy, either negatively or positively. I don't think the responsibility adult men have towards youth can be underestimated, and this is where it has to start if our thinking is to change. A man can express emotion and empathy and still be strong.

~ Barry

Thursday, 6 December 2012

National day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

**Trigger Warning** This post talks about a violent event that may be triggering for some...

December 6th, a very important day in the lives of Canadians. 
Today, we remember women all around Canada whose lives have 
Classroom at Polytechnique where
he opened fire on the students.
been lost at the hands of an abuser. On December 6th 1989, Marc Lépine shot and killed 14 women at École Polytechnique, Canada's top Engineering university, located in Montreal Quebec. He roamed the hallways entering one classroom first. He ordered all the women to one side of the room and the men to the other, granting the men permission to leave. To the nine women left in that room he cried "You're all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists", opened fire and shot and killed six of them, injuring three. This university was accepting women for the first time and he, angry that his application had been denied,  
associated the acceptance of women at the school with his denied access.He continued to roam the hallways solely seeking women to kill. He would kill 14 women that day, leaving behind another 14 injured and countless grieving friends and family members.

Memorial in Minto Park, Ottawa ON Canada 
    Michele Richard 21
    Helene Colgan 23
    Nathalie Croteau,23
    Maryse Leclair 23 
    Sonia Pelletier 28 
    Annie Turcotte 21
    Maryse Laganiere 25 
    Barbara Daigneault 22 
    Anne-Marie Lemay 22
    Anne-Marie Edward 21
    Maud Haviernick 29
    Annie St. Arneault 23
    Genevieve Bergeron 21

What came of this event was a national day to remember that violence against women happens every day, all around the world. We take this day not to blame Mark Lépine for killing those women, a man who himself experienced abuse at the hands of his father and was therefore raised in violence. As someone of low economic status he had little access to resources, so rather than blaming him for continuing the cycle of violence let's recognize that he was a victim as well. We take this day to recognize that we have to fight for justice every day of our lives. For women, for people of various gender identities and sexual orientations, for the poor who experience some of the highest rates of violence, for people everywhere fighting to end hatred. 

Please take the time today to remember these women in just one minute of silence....

We'll leave you with this song by Tracy Chapman and maybe take some time to think how, if we all just get together for this cause what wonderful changes can and are already happening in our world.

~ Leila and Barry