"Writing is my passion. It is a way to experience the ecstatic. The root understanding of the word ecstasy—“to stand outside”—comes to me in those moments when I am immersed so deeply in the act of thinking and writing that everything else, even flesh, falls away."
-bell hooks

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Was Your "Click" Moment?

After attempting to figure out how to follow different feminist groups on Twitter, I stumbled upon this website (Bitch) and thought that we should also do the same on our blog!

I would have to say that my "click" moment was when I completed a social justice project in my final year of high school. By researching the different ways in which women's rights were progressing in different countries made me think about my own limitations as a young woman living in North America. As I read different academic literature in Women's Studies, I began to see that my oppression lies even deeper than what I thought I saw on the surface. I was racially and ethnically oppressed because my own views were not being acknowledged in the literature I read, and the ways that I could talk about my own oppression were limited. At that moment, I fully realized that my feminism could grow and change in a way that could not only be empowering to me, but to other women who may share similar experiences as me. So how did I go about this? With the help of my friends, I created a blog that could hopefully work through the issues that I found to be so important to me. By creating this online space, I finally realized that there is the full potential to create a new space that seeks to understand the different conceptual forms of my own feminism, and the feminism of others.

So, we would love to hear what your own "click" moment was!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

France: Headscarf Ban Violates Religious Freedom

I was reading this article France: Headscarf Ban Violates Religious Freedom and this discussion arose from the article. Below is the link to the article.

Feminists concerned about human rights emphasize the confluence of issues here. on the one hand is the right to freely express one`s religion in public or private so along as doing so does not threaten the rights of others. A ban on appeal that appears directly at Muslim girls and women does not seem to be upholding the right to freely express one`s religious beliefs. Nor does it seem to treat everyone equally given that its effects are most evident on school girls. but on the other hand is the right to equal protection and security in one`s person and the state`s obligation to carry that out. If France understands religious symbols as posing a potential threat to an individual or to a group, and views a ban on such symbols as the best way to protect those individuals, then it might be argued that the state certainly has a right to enforce the ban even if it appears to target Muslim girls. Moreover, feminists are divided about the whether the head scarf and other forms of veiling are themselves indicative of sexual inequality or are otherwise demeaning of women. Some argue that the head scarf or veil is freely chosen and even empowering insofar as it protects women from at least women of the objectifying gaze of males. Other argue that the veil is a symbol of women`s subordination and lack of autonomy in some cultural and religious traditions.

Regardless, the feminist efforts to secure human rights internationally, in spite of difficulties determining what that would mean, are important extensions of feminist efforts to secure the legal, social, political, and economic rights of women within one`s own nation.

Women have made tremendous gains all around the world but there is still more to accomplish. Women are still more likely to be victims of violence, women still disproportionately care for infants and children, and women are still underpaid compared to their male peers. Some of the changes in legislation now need to be backed up with cultural changes that affect how laws are implemented. In addition, not all of the manifestations of oppression can be remedied through changes in legislation, the structure of the economy, or even social and political transformation. Oppression is often internalized-incorporated into how one thinks of oneself and others.


Vagina Monologues- Eve Ensler

The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler. The Vagina Monologues is made up of a varying number of monologue read by a varying number of women. Every monologue somehow relates to the vagina, be it through sex, love, rape, menstruation, mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the variety of names for the vagina, or simply as a physical aspect of the body. A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality. Every year a new monologue is added to highlight a current issue affecting women around the world. Every V-Day thousands of local benefit productions are staged to raise funds for local groups, shelters, crisis centers working to end violence against women. In 2003, for example, Ensler wrote a new monologue about the plight of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. This Monologue is known as "Under the Burqa."

Some monologues include:
  • I Was Twelve, My Mother Slapped Me: a chorus describing many young women's and girls' first menstrual period.
  • My Angry Vagina, in which a woman humorously rants about injustices wrought against the vagina, such as tampons, douches, and the tools used by OB/GYNs.
  • My Vagina Was My Village, a monologue compiled from the testimonies of Bosnian women subjected to rape camps.
  • The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could, in which a woman recalls memories of traumatic sexual experiences in her childhood and a self-described "positive healing" sexual experience in her adolescent years with an older woman. In the original version, she is 13, but later versions would change her age to 16. This particular skit has sparked numerous controversies and criticisms due to its content (see below).
  • Reclaiming Cunt, a piece narrated by a woman who illustrates that the word "cunt" itself is a lovely word despite its disconcerting connotations.
When I started thinking about the Vagina Monologue and the whole concept and purpose of it, it made me realize how closed I am about the subject. Being Arabic and coming from a very strict background, talking about my vagina experience was not an opinion. Girls in Middle East are not allowed to be open about the subject because a women’s vagina is a sacred thing and it should not be reveal to others. The subject of the vagina is only talked about between the wife and husband because after a woman gets married it is than the husband property. I personally do not agree with this because I find it important for a young woman to be open and have that knowledge about their own bodies and no one is in charge of their own body. 

At the bottom of the page I linked Eve Ensler website and it basically talks about the whole concept of V-Day and it talks about who inspired it, what inspired it, etc... 


A New Addition To This Blog- Community Agency of the Week!

In a previous post, I discussed the ways in which women who are in an abusive relationship can use their community resources to leave an that relationship. Also, a few weeks ago, I posted some links to other agencies in the Windsor area that promote the empowerment of women, that we have decided to blog about one social service agency a week that promotes the involvement and self empowerment of women in the Windsor and greater Essex County community.

This week, the agency that we have chosen is the Hiatus House. This social service agency offers confidential intervention for families who are experiencing domestic violence. It allows for women who have been abused to remain in a safe facility with their children until they can make a clearer decision on their new life. The Hiatus House also looks at these issues through a gendered lens and acknowledges that women can also abuse men, and abusive relationships can also occur within same sex couples.

Although I have never experienced an issue where I have had to take myself or a friend to this shelter, I have heard many great things about this social service agency.

I hope that by promoting their website on our blog, we can show others that there are resources in our community that can help women who have been abused by their partners.

We Know That You've Watched Them...

But, have you ever really thought about them?
Middle Eastern soap operas are what this post is all about. Whether you live in North America or the Middle East, you have seen your family members turn on their Arabic satellite and watch countless dramatic shows that tell the most risque stories. These shows are bold, enticing and brilliantly done to the point where even if you do not understand the Arabic language clearly, you will sit there reading the subtitles or ask your parents what the characters are really saying.

From watching these shows and strengthening my own views of feminism, I cannot ignore the way violence is portrayed against women. Women are portrayed in situations where domestic violence occurs as weak and always in danger. The characters of these women are emotionally and physically abused, however, no one ever stops to think that these women should leave their husbands. From my own personal experience, every time I question why these women do not leave, I am always told that because of their culture, that they do not think that they are abused, and thus, it is normalized to stay within a relationships such as this.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. For instance, if violence against women is normalized in the media, then others are desensitized to it, thus, viewing it as normal. When culture is brought into this, it creates an even more complicated matter. By allowing an excuse for violence because "a culture allows it" you are conforming to the false representation that individuals for that culture need western society to go into their countries to end their oppression. Also, by stating that violence is depicted in these shows then you are forgetting that there are also television shows in North America that depict abuse against women. By forgetting that these issues are also prevalent here, we then choose to forget about our own oppression, therefore, our feminist activism is not being used to help our own selves.We also forget that violence against women is a shared experience that women across different borders face; and therefore, not an invisible one.

So the question remains; what can I do as a Chaldean woman living in a western society where these shows are displayed to my younger siblings. The answer is simple. I would do the same thing that I would do regarding any other show, whether it be a show produced in North America, or the Middle East. I would argue that these women are abused, and that they should look towards themselves and their community resources to help empower their own lives and leave an abusive relationship. I would also still argue that violence and abusive relationships are not healthy, no matter where it is stemming from.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Support Egyptian Women!

There are many different ideologies that I find are oppressing toward women in Canada. I for one have to be thankful for the privileges that I have been given, and worked hard for, but I know that patriarchy is deeply rooted within our society, and thus, I am still fighting for not only my own rights, but I also have to support other women who may live in a society that is more deeply ingrained in patriarchy. I have been researching an important cause to which this blog can be a part of, and one protest that I have recently discovered is the forcing of virginity tests on Egyptian women who were protesting against their government. These women who not only tortured severely, but, virginity tests were performed, and if they 'failed' then they would be charged with prostitution, and further subjected to hate crimes.

The idea that virginity tests are still performed are not only illogical, but they so ingrained with the oppression of women because it tells others that a girl (girls are only called women in the Arab nations after they are married; thus, losing their virginity) is only worthy of respect if her hymen is still intact. By performing a virginity test, you are implying that a female only has one sole responsibility: to remain sexually silent and restrict her sexuality to the rules of patriarchy.

Now, I understand that the whole mantra of this blog is to help support women in third world countries, and not save them, but I still feel that these issues affect Middle Eastern women right now in North America who might feel that their sexuality is restricted because of these patriarchal ideologies. I feel that by proposing this issue on our blog, we could help raise awareness to an issue such as this, and further promote activism and discussion.

I have posted the link to the article on the side bar. Hopefully we can help their cause and stop this abuse!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What is feminism? Who is feminist?

One thing is for sure, there is no membership card or pledge of allegiance to the cause, there is no litmus test or any sort test actually. Perhaps we might answer to be feminist one merely had to claim it as an identity. But identity is itself a troubling word. If I say I am feminist does that mean that everything I do will be as a feminist? Does that mean that I have to dress, act, and speak like others who also that they are feminists? Do I have to follow a feminist dogma? And what about this notion of an individual claiming an identity? What could that mean and do all individuals have the freedom and power to do such claiming? For that matter, why would we want to say being a feminist is merely a choice for an individual? Clearly, there is a lot to think about regarding these terms feminism and feminist.

The most common and perhaps most general understanding of feminism is that feminism is about equal rights for women. Feminism is more about equal rights for women but what that means is much more complicated than it appears at first blush. Moreover, feminism isn’t just about equal rights for women. Feminism is a critical project. It looks at all aspects of life to identify those elements that might be oppressive and suggest alternatives. By critical I do not mean that feminism rejects anything that it does not like. Rather critical means that there is an inquiry into the message and values of something. Criticism is an activity that seeks to analyze and understand something- a practice, a custom, a language and a social role. In seeking to understand, however, criticism also asks what values and presuppositions are being implied by the thing. A critical look at the world would dissect it into various parts- language, laws, social roles, practices, for instance- and seek to uncover what else is being suggested beyond the facts. A feminist reading, as a critical project, would look especially at what is being said about women; what social roles are they expected to take, what are their liberties or privileges in relation to men, and similar sorts of inquiries. In addition, if the feminist has specific interests or concerns, then she or he might emphasize particular aspects of the critical project. Feminist glimpse the world through a different lens and what they see usually requires a response. Feminism in other words follows the critical project with action to bring about to social change.

What is Sisterhood to You?

Sisterhood is a notion of unity among all women, that is, that all women are sisters. But what makes us sisters? One idea of sisterhood is founded on shared experience and oppression. Women might bond over shared anxieties, sufferings, and trials. Perhaps women share a bond or seek to connect with other women because they relate over the difficulty of their experiences of being subordinated, the victims of violence, stereotyped, excluded or otherwise oppressed. Women talking with other women and sharing experiences plays a large role in bringing oppression to public consciousness.

Sisterhood implies moral and epistemological bonds between women regardless of whether individual women actually know one another. The idea is that all women are subject to sexist violence, marginalization, and exclusion and by virtue of this subjection women are united. Sisterhood should mean that sisters should aid their sisters in need. But of course women do not always or even often respond in compassionate ways to other women, sometimes, women even blame one another for the violence they suffer.

Sisterhood is also problematic in a number of ways. We want to share how not all women actually shares the same experience of oppression. If feminist organizing relies on a bond among women and the bond is grounded in a shred experience of the same oppression, and if there is no shared experience of oppression, then no bond will form and feminist organizing will be paralyzed. Moreover, any number of particular circumstances may affect how a woman experiences oppress. Sisterhood also tends to emphasize victimhood. Certain naming and identifying a problem shared by others is important many women find the initial experience of consciousness rising quite empowering. Nevertheless, focusing on the many ways that women are victimized can be all consuming and quite paralyzing. Is sisterhood stops at how women are victims together then they never get to the point of changing the social and political systems that cause victimization. Women have to move beyond being victims in order to identity that many strengths women have and act on those strengths for the good of all.

First Comes Marriage, Then Love?

An arranged marriage is the union of a man and a woman which is brought about by someone other than the bride and groom. Historically, it was the primary way in which future spouses were introduced, and arranged marriages still are a fairly common practice in certain parts of the world today. I’ve learned all about the history of arranged marriage; how they have evolved over time, and the advantages and disadvantages to marrying someone you hardly know. In modern America, it is a given that “first comes love, then comes marriage”, but this has not always been the case throughout history. The idea that marriage is based entirely on love is a fairly new concept, and even in western society, there are men and women who meet their spouses through either a matchmaker or an interested family member. An important fact to note is that an arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage, nor is it necessarily an involuntary union foisted upon unwilling participants by their families.

Different periods of time and different cultures have very different histories when it comes to women. In the Middle East, in theory, arranged marriages were preferred over lover marriages, which is the predominate system. Throughout history, and even today in the Middle East, families arranged marriages for couples because they believed that their daughter or son is not fit to decide because he or she would not know best. The people involved did not and do not have much to say about the decision. Most couples did not marry because they were in love but because economic situations. Some marriages were by proxy, some involved a dowry (bride's family giving money or presents to the groom or his family), some required a bride price (the groom or his family giving money or a present to the bride's family), few had any sort of courtship or dating, but most had traditions. One of the traditions known throughout history and in the Middle East is the engagement ring and the shape of the ring symbolizes eternity or a union that is to last forever. The notion of marriage as a sacrament and not just a contract can be traced St. Paul who compared the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and his church. Many people hold the view that regardless of how people enter into matrimony, marriage is a bond between two people that involves responsibility and legalities, as well as commitment and challenge. That concept of marriage hasn't changed through the ages.

In the Middle East, the whole concept of arranged marriage was seen as normal and two people can learn to love one another, rather than fall in love first. A lot of people could see something wrong with this tradition but because the Middle East was very strict when it comes to their sons or daughter, so as a result, Middle Eastern culture claims that the elders of the family have the final say over the marriage for they have seen the world and know that a successful marriage is not just a uniting of two people, but of two families.

Personally, in my opinion this is just oppressing not just the female but also male because they are not being allowed to choose someone to spend the rest of their life with. Knowing someone choose them for you and not knowing if you will end up loving them is a scary matter. I could never image doing that to my children because I want them to learn to make their own decisions and mistakes at the same time. Even when it comes to my parents they know to never put pressure on me to get married to someone I hardly know or if it’s arranged. They do not believe that marriage should be that way because it is important to remember in the long run that it is not their marriage but mine.