FGM

I can’t remember anymore when it was when I first heard about FGM or female genital mutilation. It must have been rather late, in my early 20s, at university (on my side of the world this was one of the miseries that women did not have to endure). What I clearly remember, however, is what shaped my thinking about it. After reading The Color Purple I became fascinated with Alice Walker. So I started reading her books one by one, and I soon got to Possessing the Secret of Joy. I was amazed, shocked and appalled by Tashi’s story, who undergoes this dreadful ritual as an adult and then tries to get on with her life in America. Walker broke taboos and at the same time raised awareness of this practice in the Western world when she wrote the book in 1992.

A few years ago I moved to a part of Europe where the number of immigrants is quite high from Northern Africa, and from French-speaking countries of Africa. I also work in an environment where most of my coworkers have lived  in developing countries for decades and worked on missions trying to “make the world a better place.” Many of them are doctors and many volunteer for various NGOs in their free time, so I have become much more closely exposed to this issue. One of them very actively took part in the European Campaign of Amnesty International to End FGM (as the immigrants from these countries bring their culture with them, there are about 180,000 girls at risk in Europe of undergoing FGM. Worldwide, 3 million girls undergo FGM every year.) Recently I took a class on Gender, Diversity and Politics at a Brussels university and some people argued there that if we want to fully respect and protect multiculturalism, then we should not intervene and advocate for the end of FGM. We should let people do things according to rules of their own culture. I disagree in this case, strongly. I tend to agree more with Alice Walker (and my colleagues): “Torture is not culture.”

This was only an intro to a video I stumbled upon on TED recently. It is a must see. The speaker, Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo the traditional Maasai rite of passage of female circumcision if he would let her go to high school. Now she is changing the destiny of girls in her village by having built a school for them.

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Sexism, video games, trolls

Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency is a feminist media critic who initiated a successful Kickstarter campaign to examine sexism and representations of women in video games. (Kickstarter is a fundign platform for creative projects.) Apparently, little did she know what this will bring out of some of the members of the gaming community. Shortly after, she fell victim to (cyber) harassment, and there was even a game developed where users could punch a photo of Sarkeesian.

Advertisements: Best and Worst Attempts to Sell Stuff to Women

We all have a love-hate relationships with ads on TV. OK, mostly hate. But every now and then (unlike Axe and most fragrance ads for example) they can be smart, non-sexist and funny.

Policymic collected some of the best and worst US ads of 2012 in which they are trying to sell stuff for women. I only include two examples here, but they have more.

One of the worst: you have probably heard about the pink “BIC for her” pens, which caused some turbulence on the internet and BIC was heavily attacked for being sexist (not without a reason). You may have also seen Ellen DeGeneres’s brilliant piece about it. (If not, watch it, it is hilarious!)

So here is the commercial of this new product for her:

Thankfully, there were good examples also, one of them being from Kotex, who gave a new twist to the usual tampon commercial 🙂

Street harassment – this time in NYC (and how they try to fight it)

According to the TEDx website, when feminist icon Gloria Steinem was asked, “What women today inspire you and make you feel that the movement continues?,” her response was, “Emily May of Hollaback!, who has empowered women in the street, literally.”

So who is Emily May and what is Hollaback!? Emily is an activist who (along with a couple of her friends) created Hollaback! in order to fight street harassment in the streets of New York City. Their aim is to empower the targets and make the harasser feel uncomfortable. In order to achieve this, they encourage people to use their smartphones to document, map, and share incidents of street harassment. Hollaback! is now present in 25 countries of the world, in more than a 60 cities.

One Billion Rising

The person behind One Billion Rising event is Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of the V-day movement. What is the new movement about? One Billion Rising claims:

One In Three Women On The Planet Will Be Raped Or Beaten In Her Lifetime.

One Billion Women Violated Is An Atrocity.

One Billion Women Dancing Is A Revolution.

On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.

What does ONE BILLION look like? On February 14th, 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.

ONE BILLION RISING IS:

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 ends
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

Many celebrities also started joining the movement, from Jane Fonda to Jessica Alba. Eve Ensler’s recent piece on OBR appeared in The Guardian on September 24th — it is definitely worth reading. And for the record, the one billion is not just a number out of thin air: it is a UN statistic. One out of three women will be beaten up or raped during their lifetime.  Plenty of reasons to rise.

Wearing nothing new

Once again, a little detour from (hard core) feminism. As I wrote in a previous post, I consider the issue of being environmentally friendly (or “green” as we now say) part of being socially sensitive. Sensitive to what is going on in the world and responding to it, consciously.

Part of being green (hate this expression by the way) means trying to buy second hand things. Furniture, books, kitchenware, and ultimately, or actually primarily, clothes. Most girls I know have been to clothes swap events, and most of them have shopped in second hand clothing stores. It is fun: partially social activity, partially treasure hunting, partially looking for a new piece for the wardrobe, and partially eco-friendly.

So my friends, here is a little inspiration by designer (and empowering female figure) Jessi Arrington on how to take this to the next level:

BirthMarkings – creative short film on accepting the body’s changes after giving birth

The International Museum of Women is, as the organizers say about the project, “an innovative online museum that showcases art, stories and ideas to celebrate, inspire and advance the lives of women around the world.” They are a museum without walls, and they give voice to women who are (all too often) unheard.

On this portal I found a video that is only 20 minutes long but it  touches on an interesting subject in an original way. The short film “BirthMarkings” explores women’s bodies after giving birth, and the self-image change that usually follows. Should these stretch marks be called scars? Why is no one talking about them, yet these are things that almost all of us have seen on our mothers’ (or on our own) bodies? Is this something to be ashamed of or is it something natural? The film raises these and other important question about (healthy) body image, motherhood and the (Western) concept of beauty. Margaret Lazarus, the film’s director only focuses on women’s tummies, and that I mean literally: the camera only shows the abdominal regions, and we only hear the women’s voices, but we never see their face.

As someone who has not (yet) given birth, I must admit I am afraid of all that lies ahead of me, of the ways this will affect my body (and soul). So I consider this shock therapy for myself: a lesson on starting to already get accustomed to the thought and learn to deal with it, as this will be something I have little control over. One of those things that affect so many women, but is rarely discussed openly.