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Haitian earthquake effect on girls and young women

January 17, 2010 2 comments

Women and girls have always carried the brunt of natural disasters. They become more vulnerable than they may already be. They become more impoverished, due to the fact that they were probably in a worse-off financial situation beforehand. Since they’re generally the primary caretakers, they have other people to take care of, so they don’t put their own needs first. Also, the countries are usually rebuilt on the shoulders of women. You get the picture. Obviously nature disasters effect men in negative ways, but women just carry the brunt of negative effects.

When I heard about the earthquake, I was immediately thinking about how women and girls were going to be effected, and now there is actually an acknowledgment that young women and girls are in more danger now than ever before in Haiti.

As of right now, relief efforts are being put into Haiti, and many have said that things like security is just not something that is important at this moment. However, Gerardo Ducos, a Haitian researcher for Amnesty International states,

“My worry is we put a lot of effort into bringing relief, but we have to have some protective measures to benefit women and girls to avoid their being victimized and sexually assaulted. It was already difficult in ordinary times.”

As Ducos said, it was already difficult during ordinary times. There are various reported numbers, but so many girls and young women do not report their rapes or other sexual assaults. During this time of crisis, this issue is just going to get worse. Yifat Susskind, policy and communications director for MADRE, says that women need more support during this time, but this is what happenings:

“They need support commensurate to the burden they are carrying. Instead, we see women and girls are targeted in all sorts of way, especially gender violence.”

She also mentioned that there are simply more losses for girls and young women, by stating,

“Her grandmother, the one person (a girl) could go to for protection or solace – she doesn’t know if she is dead or alive. Her school, the one safe place she could go every day is destroyed. … “

Ultimately, this earthquake has been such a huge hit for everyone, and it’s wonderful that the world is really stepping up and pouring out love to Haiti. We just can’t forget that women and girls are the ones that are going to be effected by this the most in the short and long run.

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Plastic surgery obsession in Western societies

January 15, 2010 3 comments

First off, I’m sorry for neglecting this little blog at the moment. I have some personal family things going on and I’m completely distracted and incoherent at times. I’m going to try and be as consistent as I can, but I can’t really guarantee that right now!

Anyway, by now, you might have seen Heidi Montag (The Hills) on the cover of People Magazine, being called a plastic surgery addict. She is 23 years old. I seriously don’t want to give Montag anymore press, but the issue of a plastic surgery obsession is of interest and is changing the landscape of image for women in North America. So first, here is Montag’s before and after photo, where she clearly had multiple procedures. Ten to be exact.

Um, I just need to say that she now looks 40, and I’m not entirely sure if that’s what she was going for. Isn’t our culture obsessed with youthfulness as well? Maybe Montag isn’t. Not sure.

So how is the availability of plastic surgery effecting women and girls in our society? Well, obviously we already know that women and girls alike are self-conscious about their appearance, and celebrities who do partake in plastic surgery don’t help the situation. I must say, the one good thing about Montag coming out and saying she’s had so much plastic surgery might mean that “normal” women and girls won’t even worry to compare themselves to her apparent “perfection”.

But what about the people that are having plastic surgery that claim they haven’t had any work done? Women and girls are still looking at those people and saying “Oh crap, I’m never going to look like that“, or “Wow…she’s so perfect. I wish I could be like that“, or something along those lines. Now that plastic surgery is readily available to those who can afford it, artificial beauty is becoming more commonplace.

And what does more artificial beauty create? Shitty feelings in women and girls. Low self-esteem. More image-consciousness. The feeling to need “perfection”. We know that women and girls are valued in terms of their appearance, but as the obsession with plastic surgery grows, I think this value based on appearance will grow as well, which is disheartening. Now, I am not blaming celebrities and other people who can afford it, for getting plastic surgery. We do have beauty standards in our society for women and there is absolute pressure to be a part of that standard. I guess what I’m wishing for is a society where these things never mattered. A society where women and girls were not valued for their appearance over a lot of other things, such as intelligence, talents, or individual personalities.

Do you agree? Do you think our society’s obsession with plastic surgery will ultimately hurt women and girls in the end?

Hillary Clinton’s speech for the International Conference on Population and Development

January 11, 2010 Leave a comment

On January 8th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech commemorating the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development and it was a great speech for women’s rights, health and reproductive rights. Here are some excepts (via The Broadsheet):

“One woman dies every minute of every day in pregnancy or childbirth” and, “for every woman who dies, another 20 suffer from injury, infection or disease every minute.”

“20 million unsafe abortions” occur every year, millions of women die annually from preventable sexually transmitted diseases and millions of lives are destroyed by fistula, which is often “the result of pregnancies that occur when a girl is too young.”

“Seventy million — that’s sev-en-ty million — women and girls worldwide have been subjected to female genital cutting,” which can lead to life-threatening infections and complications while giving birth.

One quote I love, as it is seems so simple, yet…the world doesn’t get it, is:

“Investing in the potential of women and girls is the smartest investment we can make. It is connected to any problem on anyone’s mind in the world today.”

There is much more than these small excepts, I encourage all to watch the speech here.

Being male in the writing realm equates to more success

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

James Chartrand, of Copyblogger and Mens with Pens, is coming out. As the true woman that she is. James Chartrand, which is a pen name, explains the struggle she was having before she got into the online writing biz. She tells of how she is a single mother, who was on the brink of having to go on welfare and not being able to feed her two daughters. She decided to look online for writing jobs, as she knew she could write well and do it from home. She did this for a good while, under her real name, but it just wasn’t cutting it. She explains that before she took up a male’s pen name, that she would be struggling to get jobs, as well as not receiving the pay she knew some other people were getting. She then decided that she was going to make a pen name for herself, something that would “command respect”. She chose James Chartrand.

Once she did this, she got more jobs. She got more pay. She got compliments. She didn’t have to do many revisions. She states,

Understand, I hadn’t advertised more effectively or used social media — I hadn’t figured that part out yet. I was applying in the same places. I was using the same methods. Even the work was the same.

The exact same work. It was equal by all means, yet, because she now had James as a pen name, everything was better and easier. She explains the positives here:

Taking a man’s name opened up a new world. It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service.

No hassles. Higher acceptance. And gratifying respect for my talents and round-the-clock work ethic.

Business opportunities fell into my lap. People asked for my advice, and they thanked me for it, too.

Astounding. If that’s not a slap in the face for women writers, and women in general, I don’t know what is. Most professional women just want to work. They want respect for what they do, because they love what they do and they work hard at it. But still, just because we have vagina’s, we apparently aren’t as good as men. We aren’t as respected. We’re ignored. We’re sexually harassed. We’re discriminated against. Just because we have vagina’s. Really? Does a difference in genitals really make a difference? The clear answer is no, but still today, it is an issue. James talks about this, as she mentions that women writers have been doing this for ages, however, she states that,

Since then, we’ve had feminism. We have the right to vote, to own property, to be members of Parliament and Congress, to get a job, and to be the main breadwinner of the family. And yet apparently we haven’t gotten past those 19th century stigmas.

No, we haven’t gotten past the 19th century stigmas. That’s why feminism still exists today. We need it, and James Chartrand has once again proved that.

Click here to read her post called Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants, which tells her whole story.


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AIDS and Gender

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

With the recent finding that HIV/AIDS is the biggest killer among women in their reproductive age, we know that there are some serious issues that need to be looked at in terms of this disease and gender.

We know that for most women (an estimated 98% of all women affected by HIV/AIDS live in developing countries), treatment, prevention and ultimately, equality, are things that they do not have access too. Let’s talk about gender inequality for a moment, shall we? Gender norms are a part of this inequality and accounts for much of the spreading of this disease. UNAIDS states,

Gender norms, for example, often dictate that women and girls should be ignorant and passive about sex, leaving them unable to negotiate safer sex or access appropriate services. Gender norms in many societies also reinforce a belief that men should seek multiple sexual partners, take risks and be self-reliant.

And let’s not forget, they also mention how in in many cultures, violence against women is condoned. So looking at the gender norms of men, it’s apparent that women automatically become more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. These uber masculine gender norms continue to hurt women in many ways, but especially in this area. And of course, when women and girls are supposed to be “passive” towards men about sex, it doesn’t prevent the spreading of HIV/AIDS. A way to hurdle this is to of course promote gender equality, empower women to know more about their bodies and sex, and teach men that these norms aren’t good for women, or themselves. And of course we can’t forget, if there is going to be consensual sex, use a condom!

The WHO talks about another issue that comes up with gender norms. They call it “gender-related barriers” for services, or treatment.

Women may face barriers due to their lack of access to and control over resources, child-care responsibilities, restricted mobility and limited decision-making power.

Socialization of men may mean that they will not seek HIV services due to a fear of stigma and discrimination, losing their jobs and of being perceived as “weak” or “unmanly”.

How true. For women of course, it appears that they are not in control of the decision to go seek out services or treatments. How horrible, but true. Women once against face the brunt of this disease, because of their lack of options. Men on the other hand probably do have much more access to services or treatment, but because of their societal gender norms, they refuse to get treatment. This hurts men. This hurts men a lot. Any cultural idea of what hegemonic masculinity should look like, usually hurts men and it can be seen here that men also pay the price.

I’m not going to sit back here and think I know the solution to all of this. I don’t think anyone actually does; and even if they do, solutions are a very hard thing to put in place and people will still continue to live with HIV/AIDS and die from it. However, I do say that promoting gender equality is a must (it’s a must anyway, but I digress). Through promoting gender equality, women and girls will have more rights, as well as have an understanding about their bodies and understand that consensual sex is where it’s at. Now, I’m not saying that women and girls always have the choice of consensual sex. A lot of times they don’t. But for them to know that that is what kind of sex should be happening, is a must.

Women and girls do unfortunately bare the greater responsibility and consequences of sex many, many times. After all, we are the ones that get pregnant and we are the ones that are more vulnerable to STIs. It shouldn’t be our complete responsibility, however, it sometimes ends up like that. Women and girls must be educated about safe sex and the possibility of HIV/AIDS. Many women and girls are in the dark about this because they have not had access to this kind of education. Of course, this still will not prevent HIV/AIDS, because some men will insist that no condom be used.

And this brings me right back around to promoting gender equality. When women are able to make decisions and choices about their bodies and sex, we will see a decrease in HIV/AIDS, in both women and men.

If you want to read more about AIDS and gender, visit AVERT.

Women in developing countries carry the brunt of climate change

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Who ever said that environmentalism wasn’t a feminist issue? I know it’s something that I have kept on hearing…but it’s clearly incorrect!

A new report from the United Nations Population Fund has said that women in developing countries are the most vulnerable in these climate changing times.

The report acknowledges that women in these countries to most of the agricultural work, which is of course greatly affected by climate change. Also, it discusses how women are the ones who generally are the caregivers for their families in these countries, which means they have less of a chance to up and move, which threatens them when there are (pending or not) natural disasters. The report also talks about gender issues of family planning and reproductive healthcare. Too bad that those things are not overly available to all poor people in developing countries, and some may refuse these things even.

Ultimately, the UNFPA wants there to be more research and analysis done in this area, since there is so little attention to it at this time, even though it’s something that’s extremely important.

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Men Against Violence Against Women Panel

November 17, 2009 2 comments

Last night, I had the great experience of attending an all men’s panel discussion, provided by my university’s Anti-Violence Network. The panel was entitled “Men Against Violence Against Women”. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first showed up, but it turned out to be a great discussion and some awesome points were brought up, that I want to highlight here.

1. Men need to acknowledge hegemonic masculinity
One speaker went over the basic hegemonic masculinity in our North American culture. This means strong, invulnerable, emotionless, silent, and angry (with anger really being the only emotion allowed). Homophobia is also a part of this. Men aren’t allowed to be feminine in any way, because the traditional man is supposed to be everything opposite of femininity. All of these things open up the pathway to violence, because women and homosexuals are “othered” or dehumanized; therefore, men feel that they CAN be violent.

2. There needs to be a new conception of masculinity
There needs to be a positive conception of being a man, which will make for better partnerships with everyone (women, other men, and children). Men need to reconceptualize strength. Strength can be something that is good, and not used for harm. Also, there needs to be insight within this new masculinity. Openness, self-reflection and self-awareness are necessary for this new masculinity.

3. Men must take responsibility
Many times, men are excused from their violence, or have some form of excuse for their violence. One of these excuses is that it’s a man or boys “nature” to be violent. But we were reminded again tonight that nothing is biological about violence! But another important point was that men who are not violent against women must also take responsibility. These non-violent men must not be silent. They must tell other men and boys that violence against women is not acceptable. Without these men leading other men and boys, this issue is NOT going to go away.

4. Action must be taken
One panelist discussed how there is too much damn research. We all KNOW that there is a problem, and we can continue paying for research to be done, but it’s not doing anything about the problem! We need to move on from identifying the problem. It is now time to seriously act. We must be examples to the younger generation. We must tell others that this issue is not acceptable. However you can act against this issue, you have to do it!

There were some other really awesome things discussed, which I’m going to save for a later post, since I don’t want this post to go on forever. I will just say that it was simply refreshing to hear men discuss this issue and not pat themselves on the back for having this panel in the first place. You know, that self-congratulatory thing? Not cool! So, it was awesome not seeing that. More discussions like this need to happen, because ultimately, this is an issue that only men can get rid of.

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