28 January 2013

India: Protests 2.0, pt. II

"A female protester shouts as she is hit with an Indian police water cannon during a violent demonstration near the India Gate against a gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus last week, in New Delhi, on December 23, 2012. The attack last Sunday sparked days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)"

Here we go with the second part of Saransh's article

"As it has been noticed, information diffusion is no longer a centralized process. Dispersal of information through social media attained unprecedented heights this time. Within minutes of an event taking place, the word would spread all over the country. Such hyper connectivity even though talked about for a while now could be seen real time. Once out there, information spread like wildfire and the task of information dissemination went from one to many. Social media campaigns acted as aggregators of information and people were able to garner huge support in holding protest marches in their own regions leveraging on these platforms
What was heartening to see was that it wasn’t just the women groups protesting for their right to safety but men (the average Joe) in equal numbers fighting for a secured life for their counterparts, the opposite sex. This may be said to indicate a gradual change in the mindset of our young male population particularly those from the urban class.

Aftermath. The rapes haven’t stopped in the backdrop of active debates, discussions and protests going on. The question still lingers. What should be done to the culprits? What should be done to ensure the safety of women who constitute half the population of our country? A few still throng places like Jantar Mantar to raise a voice and keep the momentum built up, but what now?

With so much of independent talk and views, what has become difficult to comprehend is the general stance of the people. It is like the last revolution that India had with its "Anti corruption" campaign. The idea, though extremely noble still has its implementation strategy not yet clearly laid out.

The problem with such scattered revolts is that individual protestors tend to forget who they are fighting against and who exactly is the enemy? Is it that constable who is firing those water cannons at the protestors simply because he had been ordered to or else is it that local mundu (delivery boy) who whistles at every passing girl because he enjoys it? Is it the minister who has 4 cases of rape against him or is it the parents who instill in their children the idea of male superiority right from their childhood?

The question that India needs to ask itself is, “who is the enemy? Why no one cares when local instances of violence take place against a woman in private or public spaces?”

What we as Indians need to introspect about is that to what extent are we willing to intervene to help curb this menace and provide a safe place for ourselves and others. A simple example is that the boy and girl had been dumped and were lying; bleeding profusely on the road after the horrendous incident that took place in December and no one came to their help for nearly 20 minutes. Passerby’s walked, drove past maybe muttering to themselves how miserable the situation of the country is, with not one of them even covering the bare victims with a cloth till the police arrived.  Is this how a country with a great future potential behave? How are we supposed to develop socially and economically if the last few traces of humanity are also disappearing at such a rapid pace? Is this truly our path to greatness and glory or are we just becoming a chump of goons running after our 8% growth rate and not giving a hoot about anything else?

A drastic change is required in the social fabric of our nation as well. People need to change, those 45 year old aunties calling their  neighbor’s daughter a slut because of her "revealing clothes" needs to change. The perception towards a girl needs to take cognizance of her ascribed traits rather than her sex? The young boy who is being scorned at by his father for crying and acting like a girl needs to change. Change begins at home. At this moment this statement cannot hold truer.

However we all know that gender sensitivity is not an add on that can be bolted on overnight. It’s a generational change that would complete not over one but several generations. What do we do in the interim transitional period? Or even more pertinent would be the question, "With all that anger and frustration unleashed during the last month, were you able to do something to improve the situation?" If not, then how are we in a better position?

I am sure that we might not have the answers but at least we are now much more aware of the right questions."

27 January 2013

I ♥ Being a Girl people, meet the press: Maya (YSAFE SC) ♥ Being a Girl

We're going back to our roots, both I ♥ Being a Girl and IPPF wise, and exploring our own experiences. And you deserve to meet the people behind, anyways.
So, here it goes!

Name: Maya Koumanova  

Things I enjoy doing:
- travel
- dance
- have challenging/funny arguments with friends

I became aware of sexual and reproductive health and rights by growing up with it. Different issues that would disturbed me, gradually became clear and full of meaning once at the age of 14 I took interest in my sister’s voluntary work for IPPF. I got magnified by its power and have subsequently took it up myself. Since then my knowledge and interest in SRHR has deepened, and now it has become inseparable part of my worldview and experience of the world.  Meeting so many amazing people through my work and hearing their stories has been the biggest driver and source of inspiration.

The world would be a better place if everybody would: 
- Watch Carl Sagan’s "Cosmos" and The Joy Luck Club, a movie after Amy Tan’s novel by the same name  about human relationships and interaction, generational change, the evolving roles and lives of women.
- Listen good old Irish music and from time to time Stephen Fry pod-casts (I know it is not exactly music, but one can drown in them)  
- Read more history/science/sociology books so we can grow as a society and probably the classic  1984, scary but brilliant book which can encourage critical thinking and more thought on where we want our society to go.

Before I'm 80, I want to have  learn how to play an instrument, visit Australia, learn how to make awesome home-made ice-cream and have a happy family.

India: Protests 2.0, pt. I

We have been following news from India and have asked Saransh to give an insider's view on what has been happening so far and what is there to be done to stop the violence against women.

In case you have been in cryogenic state since mid-december, here are some news - 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 - and pictures you might want to go through before you go on reading.

"Indian women hold placards outside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit during a protest over the gang rape of a woman in New Delhi, on December 19, 2012. The outpouring of anger is unusual in a country where attacks against women are often ignored and rarely prosecuted." (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

"A public protest in India is usually a hidden propaganda fueled by a few to invoke a false sense of righteousness and purpose in the uneducated section of the society. It could typically be defined as a group of people fighting for a cause using a pre-defined method of demonstration within a defined timeline with orders being dispersed from a common high ranking source. In such cases diffusion involves targeting the needs of the source and coming up with a common consensus or compromise.

Over the past few years citizen awakening in India has been on a slow boil primarily in the issues that concern the common man in their day to day life. But due of the December incident, the scales tipped over. Thousands of people poured out onto the streets not because of a particular incentive that they cared for but out of anguish that questioned why their women were not safe in their own country? Why their women could not enjoy the constitutional right to a safe living? There were no leaders to take orders from this time and a surprising innate sense of cohesiveness between people protesting, with nothing in common but a genuine concern for women was present. These protests or dare I say uprising over the last one month has actually been a movement of the well heeled, the newly sensitized, and the young educated blood of the country who finally realized that change is up to them and that they need to shout and scream loud enough to be heard by our "highly efficient" political leaders. They need to push hard and get the existing legal, political and judicial systems moving.

Day by day people kept pouring in, television channels broadcasted it live and the nation remained glued to the TV to stay informed about the happenings. However as hours passed, angers arose and impatience began to stir up.  Adding fuel to the scenario were the absolutely irresponsible atrocious statements from some of our leaders.  From a peaceful gathering, the mutated into an angry mob of people charging towards the President’s house with no one in command, the protestors were diverse with no common traits which could be used to subdue them leaving the police unsure of their next step. With emotions bursting out of these young guns they charged at the police, screaming, protesting and braving the water cannons in cold wintery mornings. It was no longer about right or wrong, no longer about the outcome; it was simply the anger of the common people that spewed out. It wasn’t for a political propaganda; it was a desperate call for the basic safety of women residing in their own nation.

Its situations like these that demand true leadership, and this is exactly where the Indian government faltered.  Not used to such altruistic passion, with no clear strategy in mind, the police was commanded to respond in the manner it usually would, to maybe an angry fanatical mob. No political leader came out to address this thronging mass of people gathered in the heart of Delhi. No one came out; they just waited for the storm to pass.

Our home minister even drew a parallel between the Maoists and the citizens gathered at India Gate in Delhi to explain the reason for silence by the government during the protests. What you infer from this is the sheer inexperience/ immaturity of not being able to differentiate cases like this compared to any other political rally or terrorist group..."

(The article is rather lengthy, so we have chosen suspense over long reading and invite you to come over tomorrow to see the second part.)

Sunday is for horizons: Jaclyn Friedman

#Sunday #Learning

This Sunday we start a new tradition. From now on Sundays will be for learning and for widening the horizons. Every Sunday we'll suggest an author that you might want to get to know in order to grow as feminist, as a SRHR activist, as peer educator, as person...

And we start with writer, performer, and activist Jaclyn Friedman. Her work is mostly centered about the themes of enthusiastic consent, slut-shaming, rape culture... very important and omnipresent things that (somehow) go beyond the basics of the (orthodox) sexuality education, even when the CSE is trying really hard to be sex-positive.

So Jaclyn does make it sex- and people-positive and real life-based. Very relevant also for people beyond their adolescence (oh, yes, sexuality education is a life-long learning process!).

We suggest two ways to get to know her work: 

1. Read her books: Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (co-authored together with Jessica Valenti) and What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl's Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety. Coming to terms with your own sexuality and realize your needs, while being safe and able to agree enthusiastically to be sexual with people included!

2. Listen to her podcast: Jaclyn does a weekly edition of about an hour long conversation with somebody relevant in the sexual rights/feminist activism and/or writing, etc. and answers real life questions. While it is pretty much US (geography=geography) and Internet centered, it will give you a taste of what's going on in the "sex-related news" while obliging to think about polyamory, internet misogyny, body-positivity, pornography, and other things you maybe wouldn't have noticed around. And it just might suggest new paths for your own activism.
+ It's very informal and nonchalant, perfect listening matter for commutes, dish-washing, taking baths and other drag routines.

25 January 2013

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)


Let's forget the princesses for a while and move back to the real world. Well, as real as a Hollywod-made story about US high schools can get.

We suggest you watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012, Stephen Chboski). Not only to be treated compassionately and seriously while being a young person (this is not that often, eh)... and entertain yourself with a very nice coming of age story.

Also to remind ourselves that the link macro (policies, law, culture, etc.) and micro (what people go through because of who they are and because of how other are) are very intimately linked. And over all of it, how we need to be with our people who support us in order to grow.

23 January 2013

Learning to be a princess, or what?

Going on with the (critical) princess-talk, here we have the ground-breaking US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor giving career advice on Sesame Street.

While we are most grateful to Sesame Street for giving conscious life-lessons to smaller people, the question to what to do with "girl sections" recognizable from afar by the bright pink and all the other consumer goods that princessize people remains.

Do you assume that the best way to limit their influence is to forbid or to be "optimistic, perhaps overly so, about our daughters' ability to leave the less healthy lessons of princess culture behind as they age," accepting that "the risk in fighting an (almost inevitably unsuccessful) battle against princess culture is the false hope it gives that a de-Disneyed daughter will be a more empowered one" as Hugo Schwyzer does?

(This is not only about small children. Feel free, go on and recount all the wacky ideas about love, friendship, good, beauty and hair that Disney has planted in your own head...)

And as a piece of advice to bigger girls, here is Elizabeth Wurtzel with her own very sober career advice:
"Somewhere between childbirth and a no-fault divorce, a lot of smart women have chosen to engage in some risky behavior. Opting out is not a feminist choice. It's mostly just a bad idea." 

20 January 2013

Sunday is the day when #GirlsDecide: Odeta


We close the #GirlsDecide series with Odeta's* story.

She shares her journey that involves her partner and a decision to not to use a condom... several other decisions will have to be taken afterwards, with the information, support and advice available.

18 January 2013

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Stories about Anne Boleyn


Continuing with the princess theme, we are here just to remind you that the much romanticized age of princesses was a very dangerous place to be a woman. And that there is no reason to dream to become a princess/queen. As an example we bring you the life story of Anne Boleyn (c. 1501 – 19 May 1536).

There are many interpretation of her life as the mistress and the 2nd wife of King Henry VIII of England, we shall name just few. In all of them you can see reflected the nauseating relationship between power and lust, manipulation and defeat. It would be too easy to say that this is just about the point when a political need for a male heir and the wish to be the queen (have power!) meets. It is him tearing both England and Europe apart because of the feeling of entitlement. It is her being decapitated (this is not a spoiler, it's general knowledge) for not being able to produce on.
Also, you get to see how religions are made.

Anne of Thousand Days (1969, Charles Jarrot) if you are into movies with patina, and as one from the time when everybody seem to have been comfortable with a tyrannic Richard Burton as the King.

Moving almost 40 years on here comes The Tudors (2007-2010, Michael Hirst) that will bring you lots of hours to watch and lots of characters and relationship dynamics to swallow. Nevertheless, it is quite brilliant and does an excellent job showing the complexity of motivations. With the King in the center and not his wives though... 

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008, Justin Chadwick) is exactly about rivalry inspired in the fact that there is somebody with almost unlimited power to do harm or do good, and conquering their benevolence and trying to maintain it is all you can do. Hard line patriarchy, you know.

13 January 2013

Sunday is the day when #GirlsDecide: Nomvelo


We continue our around the world journey to listen to girls from #GirlsDecide initiative from IPPF. Today it's Nomvelo* in Swaziland, telling us about her future dreams, love, doubts about sex and the worries that her HIV status could be a problem in relationship...

11 January 2013

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Brave (2012)


This week we stay with the female emancipation and child marriage but through the eyes of Disney/Pixar. We suggest you watch Brave (2012, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell).

Yes, fair enough, it is not the greatest beacon of feministing to be found in the history of the cinematograph. Nevertheless, we have to admit that Disney princesses are changing for good. This one, Merida, together with the newest Rapunzel being the most advanced ones.

And Brave is good exactly for what it is: not a taming-of-the-shrew story (like, Mulan (1998)). Merida doesn't need to change herself, she just have to find a way to convince her mother that it is not the moment for her to get married + that if she will chose a partner in future, she'll do that on her own... 

Certainly better idea for what to watch together with little children (not only girls, mind you!) than Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950), or Sleeping Beauty (1959) that are left to more mature audiences that can approach the story critically (and read into the richness of symbols that are by no means innocent).

06 January 2013

Sunday is the day when #GirlsDecide: Hosna

This time we travel to Bangladesh to meet Hosna* and hear about her decision making journey. She tells us about her fears regarding an early marriage and looks for a way to make an autonomous decision about her future, while involving her community and changing some of the customs.

04 January 2013

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Hard Candy (2005)


The party time is over. Here we are with some serious stuff.

Hard Candy (2005, David Slade) will make you debate and doubt. And it will shock you. For real. And surprise you with the outstanding work of then very young Ellen Page. It's a mind twister. It will make you question things. Which is good for you. Always.

Feature's tagline being "Strangers shouldn't talk to little girls", it is faithful to it. Doubting our notions of vulnerability, guilt, perversity, innocence, cyber safety and so on... it is triggering and you may never trust a 14-year old again in your life.
Well, you shouldn't have treated them as children beforehand...

(Disclaimer: We by no means suggest you take criminal justice in your own hands (after watching this one), it may end up being risk seeking behavior.)

01 January 2013

What are Sexual Rights about?


Hello, hello, happy 2013!

Let's be (more) serious this year. Let's be active. Let's be vocal. Let's be brave and angry. And let's start the year with going back to the basics.
So what are Sexual Rights and how do we make sure the people responsible to protect and ensure them actually do so?!

The one video up there is a very short and emotional introduction on what are we talking about.

And a longer version below spells out the Sexual Rights: An IPPF Declaration, step by step.