Archive for the 'human rights' Category

17
Nov
14

the right to be you

the right to be youI have been on a hiatus of sorts.  It’s not because I haven’t had any thoughts, concerns or opinions about life.  I guess I just found myself coming up against the same roadblocks, questioning the source, perhaps a common one, of these consistent struggles.

Just the other night I was out with a beautiful artist.  I have seen her work many times and she is a kind-hearted, loving individual.  Yet I hear her say the very words which plague my own heart: can I do it?  Do I have any talent?  Am I beautiful?  I know the answer to all of these questions, but when we are alone with ourselves, we tend to create a comparison which always leaves us feeling less than.  Our society, especially American society, thrives on doing and results.  The expectations placed on us, especially women, make it almost impossible to find satisfaction and pride in oneself.

Society tells women that they must achieve an idyllic beauty which requires youth.  Obviously, this is impossible as we all age, but because so many others strive to reach this imposed rule, we do everything in our power to fulfill it.  Countless, beautiful, brilliant women of all ages with whom I’ve had the pleasure to know, have shared their fear of aging and remaining physically attractive.  The constant fear of gaining even a few pounds or showing signs of a wrinkle plagues their existence.

Then there’s the expectation that women should have it all; if they don’t have both a successful career and children, they disappoint someone.  Many women work hard to obtain an education and use it to compete in an unequal marketplace which not only expects them to give as much, but for less compensation.  Simultaneously, society also places pressure on women to have children whilst making it virtually impossible to maintain the same level of job performance.  Meanwhile, if they do give attention to their work, they may feel guilt or anxiety over their parental role.

As a result, society continues to place women in positions which inevitably cause them to seemingly fall short of its expectations in one area or another.  Personally, I’m tired of never feeling like enough.  No matter how much personal fulfillment I may find apart from society, as soon as I step off my island, I am reminded of my failures.

So how do we break this pattern?  How do we defy these expectations and create ones which build us up rather than tear each other down?  It is hard to walk this path against the grain alone and I don’t believe we are meant to go it alone.  Life is short.  Can we come together and simply claim the right to be ourselves?

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06
May
14

looking for an escape

looking for an escape050514The death penalty.

Not that we should need a reminder to re-evaluate the death penalty, but the “botched” lethal injection in Oklahoma is a not so subtle reminder that this whole death thing is not humane.  In fact, it should make us question our whole system of incarceration.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit in on a seminar with a man who takes theatre into prisons.  It was very compelling and inspiring to hear how so many people were touched by the works of Shakespeare in very personal ways that transformed their lives.  What stood out to me most though was the fact that he learned a whole new language from his work at the prisons.  One word he refused to use was “rehabilitate.”  He explained that human beings do not need rehabilitating to be human.  What he discovered was that most of the men in jail were never habilitated in the first place which is why they were where they were.  Instead, he preferred using the word habilitate for what he was helping to do for others in need.

This perspective brings a whole new light to our way of approaching those who break the law.  We cannot view them as merely projects that need fixing.  The fact that there are so many incarcerated reflects issues in the society which need attention.  But instead of overhauling the system, we want to do what has been deemed as easier:  giving an injection.  How this can be easier or what more people are willing to do than helping protect the lives of their fellow man is beyond me.

Don’t we all need to be habilitated?  Aren’t we all suffering from the social ills which influence our lives every day?  Some more than others may be exposed to these ills and respond in the only way they know how in order to survive or escape.  Perhaps the death penalty is their ultimate escape from society rather than the other way around.

For more information see:

Botched Oklahoma Execution Prompts Questions About Lethal Injection

 

13
Apr
14

living in fear of man

living in fear of manWhen will women stop living in fear?

It’s a simple, ordinary day.  We’re finally getting the leaky faucet fixed in out bathroom.  Though we told our landlord that originally my husband was going to be home to meet the plumber, it worked out the opposite.  No big deal, right?  But in the back of both my husband and my mind is the slight concern because a stranger will be in the house, most likely a man, alone with me.  If it were my husband, no problem, but because I’m a woman, there’s a fear.

I used to not worry about any of that when we had our dog Sam.  Now all of a sudden, without my added protection, I feel threatened.  I shouldn’t, but based on how society has trained women, we need to be the ones to look out for ourselves.  It’s not the perpetrators that should be afraid of being caught, they have the power.  We don’t spend time teaching the men of our society not to harm or cause women to live in fear of them.  Instead, my husband tells me to leave all the windows open in case I need to call out for help.

When I answered the door and my landlord was most obviously quite surprised.  In fact, he said, “Oh, I didn’t think you would be here.  I thought it was just going to be your husband.”  As a result, he ended up staying the entire time that the plumber was there.  I appreciated the sentiment, but at the same time it was infuriating for me.  I’m an independent woman and can take care of myself; I don’t need a man to take responsibility for me.  But that is not living in our current reality.  The reality is that women take a risk when a strange man or even not so strange man enters her home.  I realize that anyone of any sex or gender takes a risk when spending time with a stranger, but the history shows that women are the primary victims of men.

So when will it be safe?  Is this fair?  Is this equality?  Will we ever have equality if women have to keep living in fear?

 

14
Mar
14

just say vagina

just say vaginaVagina.  There, I “said” it.  Now that it’s out in the open, let’s talk about it.

In honor of Women’s History Month I viewed the documentary “V-Day:  Until the Violence Stops.”  This is a powerful film which depicts the V-Day movement across the world; stripping away the silence associated with sexual abuse against women.  It all started with “The Vagina Monologues” and has reached around the globe empowering and liberating women.

Why don’t we talk about it?  Shame.  Embarassment.  Fear.  Guilt.  Doubt.  Living in a patriarchal society easily instills women with the belief that they are “lesser than.”  That they too are to blame.  That they asked for it or somehow deserved.  And even if they don’t believe all that, families and friends either don’t know how or want to talk about it.  The result?  Victims remain invisible.

Though women need to rise up and share their stories in order to both liberate themselves and help others heal, I’ve heard it said that the key to stopping sexual violence against women is in educating men.  If a man learns how to respect women and see them as equal, they will not violate their human rights.  This seems like an obvious, after all, we don’t teach our little boys how to rape, do we?  So I guess those who behave this way do so due to biological factors –it’s not because they are influenced by society in any way.

Women can demand respect.  Women can protect themselves.  Women can stand united.

But until men stop seeing the vagina as a part of his rights as a man, women will not be free.

Men we ask that you respect us.  Men we ask that you protect us.  Men we ask that you stand with us.  United and free.

For more information on the V-Day movement:  V-Day Movement

03
Feb
14

the tie that binds

the tie that bindsIt’s strange to think what binds us as a human race: love, family, a common goal, football.  Football?!

As I walked my dog this evening I felt like I lived in a ghost town.  Nothing was stirring, not even a – well, you get the idea.  It was so quiet I only heard the breathing of my companion.  Where was everyone?  Coming together to watch a game on television.

This got me to thinking…if we are able to unite for an entertainment event, why can’t we join with each other in solving society’s needs?   We can.  We have the ability to bring about amazing things when we bind together for a common goal.  And in this event, everyone is a winner.

Okay, so that was kind of corney, but you get the idea.  We see so much division in our society over property boundaries, race, religion, politics, gender, money the list goes on and on.  War rages on all over the world.  But we have shown ourselves capable of compromise and diplomacy.  All of the time, energy, money and influence it takes to make the super bowl a day which brings people together shows that though we are a society of competitive spirits, when we come together, we can make great things happen.

It is easy to focus on what we do not have in common or what we do not agree on, we tend to thrive on conflict.  However, when I break it down to simple relationships, it is all about respect and sharing life goals.  All relationships have their ups and downs and quirks.  Life is about compromise; that’s half of the journey.  But what is great about compromise is that everyone benefits.  In my marriage there are things that I have had to let go and so has my husband, but we share an overall vision for our lives and I can’t imagine fulfilling it with anyone else by my side.

We are not alone and we have great power in numbers.  Relationships can add up to an influential movement.  Anything is possible when we bind together.

 

16
Jan
14

armchair activism

Ever encounter fiction that reflected real life but the real life seemed less fathomable than the fiction?

Today I began a huge endeavor of bringing to life a scene from one of the most compelling pieces of fiction in theatre:  the play by Lynn Nottage called Ruined.  This play depicts the story of men and women struggling for survival in the Congo.  The author hones in on the women of the play and how they are stripped of their identity just like the land being stripped around them.

Though this is a piece of fiction, the stories of these women echo true in todays’ society.  The war and atrocities associated with the plight of these characters is happening, now.  And that is the goal of the author, to not only bring awareness by giving these women a voice, but to move us to action.  I can only hope that I can direct this scene in such a way which will also inspire those who see it to reach out and make a difference.

armchair activistIt’s so easy to become an armchair activist.  We can sit from on high and look down on all the problems that need addressing in the world.  But when it comes to rising and taking part in the efforts to change or bring relief to those in need, we feel weak and helpless, sitting back in our comfortable, safe and distant seats away from the stage.

Sometimes we just don’t fully understand the complete conflict.  Other times we don’t want to know.  But if we don’t know then how do we discover how to help?  How do we truly find the root of the issue?  And how do we address the immediate consequences of the problems?  It’s easy to throw money at a cause, but where does that money go?  And would your investment be better spent if instead of giving money you give time or training or awareness or education or other donations?

The world is a big place but we are not alone in it.  I find it difficult to listen to the news because of all the pain and difficulty.  But I realize more and more that I have a part to play.  And sharing the message of Ruined with others is one way of getting off the couch.

Here are some links about the war in the Congo:

http://www.warchild.org.uk/issues/conflict-in-democratic-republic-of-congo?gclid=CPP6oaHv57sCFUsV7Aod7h8APg

http://www.warchild.org.uk/issues/sexual-violence-in-congo

 

15
Jan
14

sexual harassment in science

sexual harassment in the sciencesAs long as we remain silent, those in power will continue to abuse it.  No matter how many times we say it, it appears that raising our voices is not enough, as this female anthropologist learned.  We must unite and take action in order to eradicate sexual harassment and assault.

http://www.nature.com/news/365-days-nature-s-10-1.14367#/clancy

Thanks to the inspiring female friend who is also a scientist for sharing this article with me.