A stabbing, a fractured arm and many broken children

A little boy held on to my arm while I came to assist his group with a skit which involved a mother and her son. “You can be the mother! It’s only acting!” I said jokingly. “You be my mother.” he replied while looking at my watch.

Even on days when all lessons run smoothly and everything is going well, a cloud of sadness pervades. A boy came in today with a fractured arm. His mother had hurt him again. We question what went on with Social Services and hope he will be taken away.

I believe that one will never fully understand what the majority of our children are facing until one has worked at the St. Lucian equivalent of a ‘Title 1’ school (and last time I checked, there are at least 10 of those here).  A child who watched a parent get killed, another whose father was shot and seeks vengeance, children who are smart but have to choose between school or having adequate food for the week and countless who are abused.During the day I always find myself thinking… how exactly can I help them? What can I do? Can I really do anything?  And what about those who will never be reached? What happens to them?

We try to do the little we can each day… but the sadness… it never leaves…

The Second Sex, Still Striving, Failing, Succeeding

“But can’t she fly away and meet you somewhere?”
“She can’t. It is forbidden for women to travel without their husband or father unless they have proof that they are going to study or work…or something like that.”
This was part of a long conversation with a friend about the impossibilities he is facing with the love of his life. He was eventually forced to give up because her father refuses to agree to their marriage. He views him as an unsatisfactory suitor.

Women are owned and unable to make decisions for themselves. They are traded as goods, from fathers to husbands and eventually die without ever knowing the independence and freedom that I enjoy.

Later that day we walked near my university’s gymnasium which was filled with students exercising. Our conversation went something like this.
“What? Men and women in the same room?”
“What’s the problem?” (Of course I knew, but I enjoy making people elaborate.)
“It should not be that way.”
“Why?”
“The women are not wearing much. None of the men in the room will be able to concentrate on exercising.”

Not only are they owned, but they are responsible for the downfall of man. Since creation.

A few weeks ago I attended a discussion on women and their position in different countries. Somehow, the organizer believed that it would be a good idea to have Islam (a religion, not a country) represented. Interestingly, a young muslim lady from Indonesia decided to participate. I immediately felt anxious for her as I knew that she would be asked several uncomfortable questions. Surely enough, it happened.
“Why do women wear the hijab?”
“Our hair is our beauty. We should not expose all our beauty to men.”
“Well, shouldn’t it be the same for men then? What will you think if you see a man without the top half of his body covered. If he has a six pack?”
“I will just think that he is cute, but I will not think any unclean thoughts.”

Stupid, foolish girl. You expect me to believe that? Double standards. Hypocrisy. You are taught to believe that you are void of any form of sexuality. Do you really know who you are? Do you really believe you are subhuman?

My thoughts travelled across the waters to the beautiful island I call home.

Flash. It’s carnival day. Women are jumping, wining, misbehaving.
I once viewed such activities as forms of female degradation. But like I said, prissy Aisha is dead.

There is something liberating and celebratory about our music and culture. We survived slavery, the harsh conditions of indentured labour and are now surviving the male dominated ideologies that cripple women elsewhere. Here I am free to jump in the streets wearing whatever I please.My father doesn’t have to approve of my husband. My husband is not in control of my life. I am not cursed.I can eat what I want, travel where I want, have the number of children I want and choose whatever job I want. My country was recently ranked third in the world for countries where a woman is most likely to be boss.

I began to ask myself some questions. Are these oversexualized female dancehall artistes like Lady Saw, Macka Diamond and Spice really a threat to us? Or do they serve as reminders that we are fully liberated to think and express anything we please; from love in its purest form to the most carnal lust imaginable. The reality is that women are not innocent creatures who only think unpolluted thoughts. We do not look at ripped topless guys and think “Oh, he’s cute.” and we can express the truth without the threat of being stoned to death. These entertainers are just honest. We have embraced sexuality and sex has become a skill, an art. So it’s not taboo to know and listen to a song with lyrics such as “Mi know fi wine slow and me know fi tick tock, Mad mi get mad when mi see yu six pack ,If mi put ih pon di left try ketch ih pan di right” The loss of virginity doesn’t warrant our isolation from society or death either, and it brings no dishonour to our family. There is more to a woman than flesh.

Instead of settling in a male dominated society where we have no voice, we are free to proclaim “Man ah de least of me worries” and “chat to me back!” without considering any negative repercussions. We own ourselves and what we do is our business.

We are ahead in the sense that we have embraced that it’s all human nature. Not man, not woman, but human. We fornicate, smoke marijuana, party, drink alcohol, get drunk and misbehave. But at the end of the day, we know who we are and where we’ve come from, and we have taken full advantage of our liberty.

While women elsewhere are forced to remain with one substandard, abusive, inconsiderate, ignorant, porn addict (because they have that problem too!) we are free to ‘cut eyes’, ‘choops’ and proudly shout “Pack up your clothes and leff!” If a man gets on our nerves, “Bun him, take man pon him, tek yuh house and land and run him” is always an option. Freedom of choice is freely expressed.

We are happy, We are free…

So maybe I have embraced Dancehall as a form of female empowerment rather than degradation.
We are far from perfection but we possess a privilege unknown to many.

covered

Many argue that both women are equally disadvantaged. However, the woman on the left has the freedom to put more on or take more off when she pleases… a privilege the one on the right may never have …

Feminist?

While in the process of writing this blog entry for the purpose of explaining why I am a feminist to some concerned friends, (I took a break for a while to complete assignments and study for exams) I received a message from Lilian Yap who is an active member of the Garden of Hope Foundation and the Asia Girls Campaign in Taiwan. She informed me that SAWERA – Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas, and a campaign partner in the in the Asian Girls Campaign, had been bombed. SAWERA is a non-governmental organization in Pakistan which focuses on the economic and social development of women and children in tribal areas; assisting women with limited accessibility to opportunities that allow them to become financially stable. Obviously, this group has no negative intentions and desires to do nothing wrong to any human being.  However, they were having a positive impact on the lives of women and this was enough for their office to be bombed. Sadly, just one year before this unwarranted bombing, the organization’s Executive Director, Faraida Afridi, was brutally murdered. She was only 25 years old.

Considering the plight of women is still a new concept for many. Women’s Rights is a term that is unheard of. In many places a woman is regarded as a commodity, not a human being.

So why am I a feminist? First of all, what or who is a feminist anyway? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a feminist is an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women.

It essentially has nothing to do with a bunch of crazed women running around topless as many would believe. It is about equal and fair treatment of both sexes. It was not created for the belittlement of men either. It is the realization that although we have been created for different purposes, we are human beings. No form of human being is superior to the other.

Many consider this to be a minor issue. I believe that it is partially due to the fact that many of us do not witness the horrors that women experience daily. We tend to believe that if a situation does not affect us directly then we are not obligated to care. Thousands of women are discriminated against, tortured and have their rights violated but we choose to turn a blind eye. Why?

It  would also be unfair of me to focus on those who are of the Islamic faith and their treatment of women as I have also heard the outrageous beliefs of individuals of different faiths. For example,

“Feminism, feminism, feminism…I know some “Christians” who regard you as permissible. I also know a culture that esteems bombing one’s self as permissible as well. So heck, why don’t we just invite you all in at one specific location so yall could have a “blast”…Believe it or not, feminism is just as self destructive as suicidal bombing!”

Yes, I know, hilarious.

This is the view of a young male who identifies himself as a Christian. A few months ago he posted this to his facebook page and I was rather appalled that a culture of such strong hatred could exist in the hearts of those who have allegedly been ‘born again’. To my non-Christian readers, I apologize on behalf of all of us and I assure you that not every man who follows the teachings of Christ expresses such blatant hatred for any group of women regardless of their beliefs. Let us not forget that Jesus showed love and understanding towards a woman who was a prostitute and never once suggested that she blow herself up.

In fact, sources prove that the Christian church played an integral role in the formation of feminist groups in the west in the 1800’s. It began with the formation of groups who rallied for the abolition of slavery – they acknowledged black slaves as equal to the whites who forced them to work. Afterwards these women began to consider their own rights and began to work towards their own social and economic advancement. Many of us (men and women) have benefitted from the fruit of their labours. They gave a voice to issues that were previously not considered, challenged the norm and made positive changes. It is evident that they made a positive contribution to this world.

It is rather unfortunate that many misled religious fanatics have missed the true objective of feminism. This may be due to their own ignorance or unwillingness to do anything close to significant research. They continuously rant about feminism being a manifestation of evil (or maybe the devil himself which is quite ironic as he is widely accepted to be male).

However, I’ll boldly state that it is indeed the lack of feminism that is the cause of much evil in this world today.

What am I ranting about anyway? Women are happy and comfortable! They live blissful lives, go shopping, post pictures of themselves on instagram and seduce men. The sad truth is that this is only a reality for a minority.

The war against women is a serious one. From female genital mutilation in Africa (and other parts of the world… just try googling ‘Gishiri cutting’) to the current war rapes in Syria ,the massive infanticide of baby girls in India and China, unequal educational rights in Pakistan (Remember Malala Yousafzai who was shot at 15 years old just for wanting to go to school?) , innocent little girls forced into sexual slavery in Kamathipura India, the millions trafficked all over the world, the idiocy of the machistas in Latin America  and even to the number of cases of carnal knowledge and rape dominating the courtrooms in my own country St. Lucia. The list is never-ending and I haven’t even started on the pay gaps.  If we don’t fight back, these injustices will continue to grow. We can’t change anything by sitting back and just watching with indifference.

I am a feminist because the world needs feminism. It is essential for the progress of the human race. I believe in equal rights and opportunities for all. I do not hate men but I hate what many of them have done and are still doing. I hate the cruelty and injustice that women face daily. The discrimination and inequality has to end. So, I stand with women worldwide as we, as Simone de Beauvoir puts it in ‘The Second Sex’, aspire for full membership in the human race.

Sojourner Truth  – “Ar’n’t I a Woman?”
“But the women are coming up, blessed be God, and a few of the men are coming with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, and he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.”

Maybe you’ll also find the following links interesting…

http://www.africanglobe.net/sideshow/saudi-cleric-fine-raping-murdering-5-year-daughter/

http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2009/10/03/rape-iraqi-women-us-forces-weapon-war-photos-and-data-emerge

http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/syria-has-a-massive-rape-crisis

http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/conflicts/profile/darfur-sudan

http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/conflicts/profile/holocaust

http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/conflicts/profile/bosnia

http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/conflicts/profile/rwanda