Notes From Women in the World, Part 2

I did it. I found my notebook from Women in the World. And as I’ve been flipping through the pages again, reading the things I wrote, remembering the thoughts and ideas and feelings that were so powerful when I first heard them (more than 2 months ago . . . ), I can see why it has been so important to me to share them.

From the pages and pages I scrawled about make-up and body image and selfies to the stories of honor killings that have been echoed in the news recently, I just can’t help but think that this is all so relevant and important for us all to know about and to think about so that we can talk and reach out and help each other — whether it be our best friend next door or our neighbor in India.

So here we go. Part 2. Please remember that these are my notes, so forgive me if they are a bit choppy! And again, if there is anything that sounds interesting to you and you want to discuss further, let me know.

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“You have to be willing to lay down your life for your cause,” says Sally, who started the Crushers (boxing) Club in (I believe) Chicago to replicate the things kids look for in gangs — like love and belonging — in a safe environment where she can also teach more basic skills like being on time and dependable, working together, resolving conflict, and dressing and speaking well so the kids are more employable. In the beginning she said, “Lord I will give you my life if you will let me save all the children.”

*****

In Pakistan women are trying to stand up to injustices in their communities and change men’s minds to turn them into allies. Many of them have never considered that girls should go to school. That’s a big idea for them. There was a lot of talk about honor killings (including a video in which a man said, with a smile on his face, “The solution to all the problems is a bullet.” He was responding to a question about whether he would let his wife or daughter go to the market — which, apparently, is a threat to his honor). But “our communities belong to us and we need to take ownership of them and to teach our children to take ownership as well.” (This hit me hard as someone who still feels like an outsider in my neighborhood and often looks past things as “not my problem.”)

When we are called upon to act, will we do what we are called upon to do? Will we recognize the call when it comes?

*****

Samantha Power is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist turned ambassador (and mom of 2 young kids). She said, “Don’t make the choice to either send in the marines or do nothing.” There are options in between the two extremes. As a writer she could write and hope that it would impact and influence someone to do something, but now she has the responsibility and the power to actually to do something.

*****

In India the term “untouchable” is a pejorative — it means you are spiritually defiling to someone else. Women of that caste use the term “dalit” which means they are broken, but they are fighting back to reclaim their own lives. “Until everyone is free of this system, no one is free. We must all be free together.”

*****

#girlsarewatching. This was so eye-opening/scary for me: seeing popular music videos of the hottest female singers/musicians juxtaposed with home videos of 3-4 year-old girls imitating the singers’ (highly sexual) dance moves. *shudder* Clearly we need to be careful about what we let our daughters see, but it goes much deeper than that. There is more to these performers than sex, but we don’t get to see that.

There is also the issue of healthy sexuality vs. sexualization (separating the person from their sexuality and commodifying those parts). Girls are being pulled in different directions: they are told they need to score well on the SAT and get a good GPA, but then it is the sexiness that gets attention.

Education and media literacy are so important. Ask what is appealing about this? Why is this important? Think about the outcomes: girls self-sexualize and objectify and then have more problems with school, physical activities, and making poor choices.

And the boys need to be taught as well. They need to know what is right and what is wrong with the way women are portrayed in the media. They are also victimized because they don’t have realistic expectations of women and sex either. And all people (girls, boys, kids) need to feel that they can ask questions and get real answers.

The culture is selling you a bill of goods when they tell you that sticking your tongue out and twerking is powerful. It is the opposite. It is giving up your power and the consequences are real. Even if they (girls and boys) are “just playing,” it does become who you are.

If you invest solely in your looks, you are investing in a depreciating asset. You need to invest in things that appreciate: your heart and your head because in them is the beauty that lasts. The media continually changes the standard and they saturate the culture so that we are always comparing our flawed selves to the photoshopped images. Make-up should be fun, but it should not own you, it should not be debilitating if you don’t wear it.

THINGS TO REMEMBER/ACT ON:

It’s not about what men think. We are in a competition with ourselves over perceived male attention.

We cannot depend on “likes” on selfies to determine our worth.

We should be able to find beauty apart from our looks in what we do.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself what you like about yourself.

Posture and attitude and confidence have as much to do with beauty as anything else.

Do we embody our beauty? Because beauty is a whole body thing.

Do not denigrate your appearance in front of your daughter: you are insulting the resemblance your kids have to you.

The sisterhood is important: tell each other that we think each other is beautiful.

*****

How Hip is Your Hijab? “Forgot to be oppressed; too busy being awesome.”

*****

Final thoughts:

Don’t be indifferent, be inspired and great. Look around for those little things that get you to act. Pay attention to little coincidences: they could be your call to action.

Own your story. Share it, speak it.

Become shameless.

Work for the world you want.

Run for office or support other women who are running.

A group of people standing together cannot be defeated.

Why not us? Flood politics with a tsunami of women.

We cannot be free if there is injustice anywhere.

We are not the flowers, we are the flames of resistance.

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1 Comment

  1. I think the sexualization of women and men in our society is a huge problem. Since having children, I have thought a lot about what type of media I will allow in my home. You can pretty much find it anywhere…movies (even Disney), videogames, tv commercials, magazines. Trying to teach my children about healthy sexuality seems like an impossible task, when it seems inevitable that they will be bombarded with unhealthy images in the media.

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    So true. I have always thought, “We’ll talk about it and that will make things all better.” But I’m realizing more and more that not only do I not know what to say, but that I don’t have any idea what their level of awareness is. Right now the boys seem completely oblivious, but maybe I’m fooling myself into thinking that I don’t have to worry about it yet.

    [Reply]

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